Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dog Days of Summer

Keeping Fido Cool

When we hear the term Dog Days, we think of summer heat and lazy dogs laying around trying to stay cool. I was curious as to what the origin of Dog Days was so I did some research and here is what I found. According to Random House Webster’s College Dictionary “Dog Days, a noun, is the sultry part of summer when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun. It is also a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, and indolence.” Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and is in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog). The first known use of the term “Dog Days” was in 1538.

When we think of Dog Days we should be thinking about our pets and their comfort during this sweltering time of the year. We need to know ways to keep our pets cool and keep them from overheating. Here are some things that you can do to ensure that your pet is safe during the dog days of summer.

Dogs should have access to shade and to clean fresh water at all times.

Do not walk your pet on pavement. Pavement gets brutally hot and if you wouldn’t walk on it barefoot then neither should your pet.

Never leave Your Pet in the car in the summer time; not even for a minute. Leaving the windows partially down does not help a bit.

Limit their activity on hot days. Exercising your pet in the early morning or evenings hours is best. Although dogs do have sweat glands in the pads of their feet, their primary means of cooling their body is evaporation by panting. Dogs bring in cool air and exhale stored heat in the body. When the air temperature is too hot they cannot cool themselves. Also, if the humidity is too high they cannot cool themselves. When dogs pant hard they dehydrate.

Dogs sunburn so if you will be spending time with your pet outdoors then you will want to buy a sunscreen made for dogs.

There are several products that you can buy to cool your pet down. Cooling collars, cooling vests, cooling beds or mats, body wraps, to name a few. Dogs love playing in kiddie pools but remember to place it in the shade and keep the water clean. Some dogs even love playing under the sprinkler. What a great way for your dog and your children to get some exercise.

Let’s talk about fur. I am going to stay on this subject for awhile because we see lots of dogs who roast in the summer and freeze in the winter because of their fur.

What kind of coat does your dog have? Double coated breeds such as the Spitz, Great Pyrenees, Collies, Pomeranians, Chow Chows, etc (or dogs mixed with these breeds) require special care year round. The concept that a dog’s fur will keep him warm in the winter and cool in the summer is not entirely true; at least not for this kind of coated dog living in the south. Dogs with this type of fur have a thick undercoat that is needed as a barrier to the cold during the winter months but if that thick coat is not removed it will become a thick blanket causing the dog to overheat in the summer and possibly cause a heat stroke, or even death. In the summer, this undercoat must come out either by the owner raking, combing, and brushing it out or by taking it to a professional pet stylist/groomer to have a de-shed treatment. When this is done the longer outer coat is left and the fuzzy thick fur is gone. This is optimal for keeping the dog cool during warm weather. This works

very well in their homeland which is usually in the northern climates but what about here in the south? There are days in middle Tennessee where it is simply too hot for many of these double coated breeds to live outside.

These double coated breeds should not be shaved down. We have had to do this with dogs that have come into the salon and their coat was so thick and so matted that the only alternative we had was to shave the hair off.

Shaving this type of coated dog close can cause problems and sometimes their fur doesn’t grow back right.

Other dogs besides the double coated breed that are at a higher risk for over heating or heat stroke are:

 * Dogs with pushed in noses such Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, etc. These breeds are known as brachycephalic. They don’t pant as efficiently as dogs with long noses.

 * Older dogs and puppies

 * Sick dogs or dogs with health issues such as heart disease or lung issues

* Obesity

 * Hyperthyroid

 * Dogs not acclimated to the heat

 * Any healthy dog can overheat if left out in the hot weather

 * Don’t forget about your kitty. Persians and other cats with pushed in noses are also at risk

Summer is a great time of the year. The kids are out of school and have lots of time on their hands to play with their pets. Dog days are lazy days and best spent indoors hanging out with the family.

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