Help Your Dog Survive the Last of the Summer Heat
After a long, hot summer of braving sizzling temperatures and a plague of parasites -- not to mention making the electric company rich with increased air-conditioner use -- the transition to autumn ought to be easy, right? Well, theoretically, yes. Your endless summer might be drawing to an end, but believe it or not, Indian Summer has the power to fry your best intentions at keeping Spot cool and comfortable. Here are a few precautions to help you and your dog through the last days of summer with minimal discomfort.
Rule No. 1: Keep the Water Coming
Provide your dogs with plenty of water to drink. Remember, their body temperature is naturally a few degrees higher than ours, so they're particularly susceptible to higher temps, and the hot weather's last gasp will definitely drive them to drink. Provide filtered water for your pooch, especially if you live in a city where the tap water is fluoridated. Additives in tap water, such as chlorine, can also cause Spot to have to "go" more often. If you don't have a water filter, allow the water in your dog's bowl to stand for half an hour before she takes a quaff, so the chlorine, at least, has a chance to evaporate away.
What goes up must come down, and what goes in must come out. With all that extra water being gulped, arrange to give Spot more frequent outings -- even if it's just a quick run to the curb for a pee (or, what is known in my animal house as "the drain walk").
Rule No. 2: Keep It Cool Indoors
But even with the ample water supply, you'll still need to run the air conditioner to keep your dog's indoor environment comfortably cool so he or she isn't pitiably panting. At the very least, running the fan is a must. Here's an incentive: If your dog feels overheated, he will be driven to drink more, which leads to even more frequent urination! No wonder a fan is the No. 1 most-used gadget on a pet, according to Honeywell.
If you've ramped up your dog's parasite medication for summer (as well you should), please protect his liver and kidneys from the ravages of those pest preventives with milk thistle supplements. This potent natural antioxidant is especially good for senior-dog vitality. And remember, every new substance you put in or on your dog -- even a botanical supplement -- will need to get pee'd out, so be diligent about those extra outings.
Rule No. 3: Watch the Heat Outside
If it's still exceptionally hot and humid out, limit your dog's quality outdoor recreation/exercise time to the early morning and after-dark hours -- avoid the middle of the day, when the sun is hottest. That goes double if you have a bracycephalic (short-snouted) dog, such as my dog Lazarus or any French Bulldog.
For certain dogs, sun protection is a way of life, summer or not. Lay in a supply of natural sunscreen (as opposed to mineral suncreen, which contains zinc oxide, a substance that's toxic to pets if licked off) and apply it to pretty pink snouts (Jason is a great source of natural sunscreen). Also, make sure the sunscreen you purchase is far from its expiration date, so you'll have plenty left over by the time Summer 2013 rolls around -- and, like the Boy Scouts, you'll "be prepared."
If you're an outdoor cafe hound, you've doubtless been looking forward to cooler temps for fun alfresco dining. But remember, in this transitional phase from summer to fall, the ground is still uncomfortably warm for canines to recline on after the asphalt's been sizzling in the sun all day -- so do wait for temperatures to cool down further before bringing Spot along for a sidewalk siesta. Leave him home in air-conditioned comfort, and bring him a sweet doggie bag of leftovers!
Last but not least, remember that often the pavement where you and Spot walk can be super-heated from the sun, especially at midday, even in late summer and early fall. Avoid paw-pad burns by side-stepping sizzling metal grates and manhole covers. If you suspect your dog has burned his paw pads (i.e., he's licking or chewing at his feet, or redness/blistering is present) apply Neem oil to the affected area -- it's brilliant for burn healing, in people and pets.
As we move into the fall, how are you taking care of your dog? Let us know in the comments!