Tips for keeping dogs safe in the heat

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Keeping dogs safe in the heat is the responsibility of all pet owners.

I am often dismayed at how many people do not think about how pets suffer in the heat and are not adequately protecting them from the many threats they face.

The risk of heatstroke

Heatstroke is a major threat to our pets when hot weather hits and can lead to multiple organ dysfunction.  Unlike us humans, dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves so they can heat up very quickly if left inside a car in warm weather, taken out on long walks or runs in the hot sun or left without any shade to escape the suns rays.

It takes only 10 minutes for the inside of a car to skyrocket by 20 degrees and we all know about the dangers of leaving our children in the car during the heat. This can escalate even faster for our dogs so leaving them in a car, even with the windows down a bit and parked in the shade, you dog is at risk.  So, keeping your dog safe in the heat is vital.

If your dog is showing signs of heat stress, such excessive panting, reddened gums, blood shot eyes, rapid breathing, drooling, wheezing, vomiting, weakness, staggering and loss of consciousness, get them to a cooler environment immediately and continue to hose/wet them down with tap water (not iced) until their breathing settles down. Offer them some room temperature water and get them to a Vet as soon as possible.

Hot footpaths and roads

Another common mistake people make is to take their dogs out for a walk on a hot day which puts them at risk of heat stroke and contact with hot asphalt and cement temperatures. A good way to check if the ground is comfortable for your dog is to see if you are able to comfortably leave your hands on the road or footpath for 10 seconds without it feeling hot.

If it is uncomfortable or you have to move your hand away then it will make for nasty burns on your dog’s paw pads. A young puppy is even more susceptible to this so best to leave them inside where it is cooler on hot days.

Be sunsmart with your pet

Dogs with bare bellies or white coats should also avoid laying in the sun as they can quickly get sunburn and, just like us humans, dogs get skin cancer too so putting sunscreen on exposed areas of your dogs is a good idea and don’t let them lay around as a tanned dog is a definite no-no!

Snake and tick bites

To keep dogs safe from snake bites during warm weather, avoid long grass, rocks and other areas snakes like to rest when you are out on a walk and keep backyard rubbish and wood pile free if you live in a snake-prone area.

If you suspect a snake bite, keep your dog calm and quiet, and get to the Vet immediately. It’s a good idea to know which Vets in your area stock anti-venom.

Tick bites can be fatal as they can embed themselves in any part of your dog’s body including paws, so it is important to know the signs to get treatment immediately. Check you dog all over every day, particularly long haired breeds and keep your dogs and cats protected with a flea and tick treatment in tick regions and during summer time in all areas.

Bush fire threat

If you live in a bush fire prone zone make sure you include your pets in the family bush fire survival and evacuation plan. During high bushf ire threats make sure you have their leads, crates, food and water bowls ready to take, keep them close and in the house with you.

If a fire has broken out nearby keep them on leads and as calm as possible.  Click here for more on how to be prepared for an emergency.

My Top Ten Tips

Too many people think animals should be able to take care of themselves like they might in the wild, but the situation with our domestic pets is very different.

They rely completely on us for their food, shelter, comfort and if we are not them with the same safe options they would seek out themselves in the wild, we may well be putting them at risk. If it’s too hot for you to be sitting, walking, running outside then it is even worse for your dog!

1. Always provide shade and cool, fresh water.
2. Leave your dog where it is well-ventilated.
3. Keep your dog out of the sun between 10am – 4pm.
4. Check the heat of the footpath and road with your hands in the summer before walking them. It is best to walk early in the morning or when the sun goes down.
5. Do NOT leave your pets in the car on warm days, even with windows down and in the shade.
6. If your dog is looking uncomfortably hot, cool them down with tap water (not iced) but you can give them ice blocks to lick or in their water bowl.
7. Use sunscreen on exposed noses and keep white dogs or those with bare bellies out of the sun.
8. Keep them away from snake and tick prone areas and get them to a Vet if you suspect heat stroke, a snake or tick bite as these can turn deadly very quickly!
9. Use tick treatments in high-risk areas at all times.
10. Have a bush fire evacuation plan for the whole family, including pets.

Click here if you would like to watch my Studio 10 appearance discussing Summer Heat Safety.

About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.

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