Beating the heat with your pooch during the dog days of summer

 

The summer is finally here and with it comes the warmer weather that we’ve longed for during the icy winter months.  We may be perfectly content with hot sunny days and balmy evenings, but do our four-legged companions share that view?  Dogs typically do not enjoy the heat, so what can we do to make this time comfortable for them too?  We’ve put together 9 tips to help your pooch not only survive but to enjoy the dog days of summer.

Hydration is vital

Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water regularly throughout the day. This is something that you will do for your dog anyway, but make sure there is an even more plentiful supply of water available than usual.

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Exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day

The coolest times tend to be either early morning or later at night.  Make sure that your dog still gets exercise, but you may have to reduce the length and speed of the walks if the temperatures are too high.  Take extra care if walking on sidewalks, as the temperature of the asphalt can burn a dog’s paws and the heat radiating off the asphalt or cement can be unbearable.  Where possible stick to walking on grass, which will be much cooler for your dog and for you too.

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Keep your house cool

If your dog is home alone while you are at work, don’t forget to set the air conditioner to run periodically throughout the day.  For homes without an air conditioner, keep blinds and drapes closed and set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise at a slightly higher speed than normal. Tiled floors can provide some cool relief so your dog may prefer to lie down on tile rather than in his usual favorite area in the house. If you don’t have tile, using a wet towel that he can lie on can give a similar effect.

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Don’t leave your dog in the car

Temperatures inside a vehicle can soar in a matter of minutes.  According to the SPCA, on a day when it is 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a car’s temperature can reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes and by 30 minutes can be at a sweltering 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave a dog in a car!

Don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods in the heat

When your dog goes out to the backyard, ensure there are shaded areas and that there is access to plenty of water.  Dog houses can become very hot areas during warmer weather, so providing some umbrellas for shade is a better option to protect from sunburn and from heat. If you have the double whammy of high temperatures and high humidity, keep your dog inside as the humidity will stop the dog from being able to cool himself off sufficiently when he pants.

Provide dog-appropriate popsicles

Your dog can enjoy some cooling ice treats too.  Chicken broth frozen into ice cubes goes down really well with some dogs. Even if you just add ice cubes made from water to the drinking bowl, your dog will appreciate it.

Keep your dog well groomed

For double-coated dogs, the top layer of hair can protect from heat and sunburn, while the hair underneath can act as the dog’s cooling system.  Make sure to brush regularly as matted dog hair will interfere with this cooling process.  Talk to a groomer about whether trimming your dog’s fur can help make your dog more comfortable – it doesn’t work for all breeds but may be appropriate for your dog’s breed.

Provide a splash zone

Not all dogs like to get wet, but if yours does, providing a little puppy wading pool in the backyard when you are there to supervise can be a fun way for him to cool off.

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Pay closer attention to your dog during warmer weather and especially if your dog is very old or very young.   If he is panting excessively and drooling more than usual, or if you notice that he is urinating less frequently or not at all, has a red tongue and red gums, and is vomiting blood or has black, tarry stools, these may be signs of heat stroke. Try to gradually reduce the dog’s temperature using cool (but not cold) water and contact your veterinarian immediately for further advice.

Do you have any tips on what helps your dog stay cool during hot weather?  We’d love to hear about them.

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 1, Grooming

 

Do the words “Spring Cleaning” make you roll your eyes and think of  The Stepford Wives, bleach, and enormous rubber gloves?  If the answer to this is yes, you’re not alone. Although it is common and often necessary to look at giving our homes an extra deep clean at this time of year, other aspects of our lives could potentially benefit from a good spring clean too. This 3-part series looks at a few facets of our lives where a little extra TLC could be worthwhile.

Part 1: Grooming Dogs

During the wetter and colder months, dogs tend to get more dirty, more frequently.  If your pocketbook is still feeling a little light after the holiday season, making extra visits to the groomer may not be a practical option.  To keep your dog healthy and smelling fresh, a more intensive session of at-home grooming may be the answer.

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Don’t Give Brushing the Brush Off

Although a relatively simple task, the benefits of brushing shouldn’t be ignored. Brushing is excellent for your dog’s coat as it removes any dead hair and avoids mats.  It also helps to distribute the natural oils within the coat, which keeps the coat healthy and looking good too. Most dogs are quite happy to be brushed, but the frequency and duration will depend on the dog’s breed – some will require extensive brushing as part of the daily routine while others will not need brushing as frequently or for as long.  Check what is required for your breed, but also bear in mind that brushing is a fantastic way to bond with your dog, so you may want to brush him more frequently than the bare minimum requirement.

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Splish, Splash

Unlike people, dogs do not need a daily bath.  Experts recommend once a month (unless there is a medical condition), as more frequent bathing strips the coat of the natural oils necessary to keep it shiny and healthy.  Never use shampoo or conditioners designed for humans.  There are plenty of dog shampoos on the market that have been specifically formulated to avoid irritating your pet’s skin, to remove dirt but not the important oils from their coats, and to be easily rinsed from the fur.

After removing your dog’s collar, clean your dog’s ears with an ear cleanser before placing her in the bath, and then gently place cotton balls in her ears to keep them dry during the bathing process.  Use warm water, checking the temperature on your own skin first and then thoroughly saturate the coat. Shampoo the dirtier areas first, working up to the head last, using your hands to massage the skin through the coat.  Use a washcloth to remove dirt from the face. Rinse your dog’s head first and then work down the body, keeping water and shampoo away from the eyes and face where possible. When you rinse the shampoo from the coat, ensure that you rinse all of it out thoroughly to prevent itchy skin. Following up with a leave-in conditioner can be helpful so the coat is more manageable and so it doesn’t get dirty again too quickly. Comb out your dog’s fur while it is wet to prevent tangles – you may find that a detangling spray will help with that also.

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Drying your dog after a bath can be a challenge, as some dogs (mine included) may enjoy the bathing process, but hate the feeling of being wet after a bath.  One way is to take the natural drying approach, allowing the dog to shake the water from his coat and then letting the coat air dry.  Impressively dogs can shake about 70% of the water from their fur in this way. If you don’t want that amount of water sprayed around your bathroom, towelling your dog dry is probably the way to go.  For those that cannot even tolerate the towel-dry wet feeling, following up with a hair dryer is helpful.  Not all dogs enjoy having a hair dryer blown at them, so if it is a new experience for your dog, introduce her gradually being sure to keep heat and air moving over the entire dog and not concentrated in one area as that could be uncomfortable or even burn skin. If your dog resists the hair dryer or is visibly fearful, just stick to the towel method.

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Keeping Those  Pearly Whites Clean

Ideally, brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of your daily routine.  Use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs – do not use human toothpaste as the fluoride is toxic to dogs.  In the real world however, no matter how much we love our pets and want the best for their health, incorporating daily brushing of their teeth into our hectic schedules often doesn’t happen.  There are other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath fresher. One way is to give your dog raw bones, which are excellent for a dog’s teeth, but never give chicken bones or other fragile bones that can splinter easily.  Dental treats can be used as an alternative to regular treats.  Be careful of weight gain in your pet if using these, as some are quite high in calories.

If your dog’s breath smells bad, there is plaque still building up around the gums, your dog has lumps or bumps in the mouth or bleeding gums, or you have other concerns with your dog’s oral health, you should turn to a veterinarian for assistance.

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A mani-pedi

For some dogs, walking daily on a sidewalk is sufficient to keep nails at a decent length until a visit to the groomers is possible. For others, this just isn’t sufficient, but many dog owners are fearful of trimming their dog’s nails in case they do it incorrectly.  If your dog has regularly had his nails clipped from a young age, he is probably quite comfortable with the procedure.  Talk to your vet about the best way to trim the nails so that they remain at a manageable length in between groomer visits. Don’t forget the dewclaw, if your dog’s breed has them.

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A buzz cut or bangs?

This is another area of dog care that many owners prefer to leave to the professionals, especially if your dog’s breed requires hand stripping.  Again, depending on your dog’s breed, you may be able to tackle some trimming at home, so talk to your vet about how frequently your dog needs its fur trimmed and by how much. If you are feeling brave and decide to have a go, make sure clippers and scissors are sharp, choose a location without distractions and remember that many dogs will get restless quickly, so make it brief.

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Lots of self-service dog wash stores have opened up across the United States over the last few years. These are more expensive than washing your dog in your own home, but are considerably cheaper than taking your dog to a groomer.  Self-service dog washes give you the convenience and ease of using professional-grade grooming equipment to groom your pooch effectively – you can often grab a latte there too!

Wherever you choose to do it, grooming your pet is not only good for the dog’s health and hygiene but provides a great bonding process between owner and dog.  Regular grooming enables the owner to be aware (more quickly) of any health changes that their pet is experiencing. So, Mom was right about spring cleaning, to not only keep your dog fresher and healthier, but hopefully by your side for that bit longer.

Why don’t you share any tips you have for making grooming a fun experience for you and your pooch?

 

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