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The dog (safe) days of summer

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Stefanie Strackbein is owner of What Dogs Want.

Summer is unapologetically here. We know how to keep ourselves cool, but pets need our help to keep them safe and comfortable when the temperatures skyrocket. Here are a few important things to remember:

Never leave your pets in a parked car. Never. Not for any length of time or under any circumstances. Within 10 minutes the temperature inside a car can go from 85 degrees to 102 degrees and that’s with the windows left slightly open. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At these temperatures, pets can suffer irreversible organ damage or die.

Pay attention to humidity. Dogs pant to keep cool, but if the humidity is too high, panting is not effective and their temperature can quickly skyrocket to dangerous levels. Dogs’ temperatures should not be allowed to get over 104 degrees. If your dog’s temperature does, treat them for heatstroke and contact your vet immediately.

Limit or skip outdoor exercise on hot days. Keep any exercise to early morning or evening hours. Consider skipping exercise when there are excessive heat warnings. Even after the sun goes down, the asphalt can remain hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if you must walk. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating. Focus on providing indoor enrichment for your dog.

Provide ample shade and water. Any time your pet is outside (and this should be very limited during hot days), make sure they have protection from heat and sun along with plenty of fresh, cold water. Tree shade and tarps are great since they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.

Cool your pet inside and out. Keep a supply of frozen treats available for your pups (frozen watermelon is a favorite) and keep an eye on their water. You might be surprised by how much water your pets consume when it is warm outside so keep their bowls filled.

Cooling mats and bandanas are now readily available on Amazon so keep these handy if your dog doesn’t tolerate the heat. Giving your pup a bath can also keep him cool and comfortable.

Watch for signs of heatstroke. Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Short-nosed breeds of dogs and cats will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

If you feel your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, move him into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over him. Let him drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take him directly to a veterinarian.

Be aware of how the heat feels to you and realize it is just as unbearable to your pet. Be a thoughtful, responsible guardian and keep your pets safe this summer.

– East Valley resident Stefanie Strackbein is owner of What Dogs Want, a program that encourages people to have more fun with their dogs. Visit www.whatdogswant.org to learn about their subscription box See Spot Think!

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