Dan Taylor, DVM
Emergency Veterinary Intern
Summer in Colorado brings out some of the best activities of the year. Hiking, camping, water sports and barbeques to name a few. Regardless of our plans for the day, many of us want to include our canine companions. Our furry friends enjoy this stuff as much as we do. As carefree and easy as the summer seems, the conditions that accompany it can pose a threat to our dog’s well-being. Therefore, it is essential to understand and prepare for summer circumstances that can harm our pets. Listed below are some hot weather tips to help avoid possible dangers and keep your pets safe during the summer months. Some may seem obvious while others more subtle.
- Start your summer off with a visit to your veterinarian. Has it been a while since your pooch was examined by a veterinarian? Is your dog up-to-date on vaccines and on a current heartworm prevention medication? The beginning of the summer is a great time to visit your veterinarian and get your pet caught up on all its preventative care.
- When your dog is outdoors, take simple precautions to keep them cool. Ensure that they have plenty of fresh, clean water along with ample shade to avoid the Colorado sun. When outside in the heat, make sure to avoid prolonged games of fetch or other strenuous activities. Additionally, sidestep long periods of time on asphalt as it can quickly overheat your dog and can burn their sensitive paw pads. If it’s too hot, it is best to keep your pet inside. Remember, if it is too hot outside for you, it is too hot for your canine friend.
Signs of overheating to look for in dogs include excessive panting, restlessness, vomiting/diarrhea and elevated body temperature. If severe and not treated promptly, heat stroke can lead to serious illness and even death. If you feel your dog is suffering from overheating, have them evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
- Do not leave your dog unattended in your car. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature in a parked car can reach dangerous levels. It does not have to be an extremely hot outdoor temperature for the temperature of your car to quickly reach dangerous levels. For example, at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior of a car will reach 100 degrees in just 15 minutes.
- Keep a well-groomed coat, but do not shave your dog’s fur in the summer months. Coats protect the skin from sunburn and actually prevent over-heating. To optimize the ability of your pet’s coat to keep them cool, ensure that there are no mats in the coat and provide regular brushings.
- In dogs that have thin hair coats or areas that have been shaved for medical reasons, you can apply sunscreen to those areas to prevent sunburn. If you do use sunscreen on your dog, just make sure it is labeled for dogs and do not use sunscreens that contain zinc, as zinc can be toxic.
- As many summer activities involve open water, do not leave your pooch unattended around open water. Use floatation devices to keep your dog afloat if you are not sure about their ability to swim.
- With the Fourth of July coming up, many of us will celebrate with lighting off some form of fireworks. It is best to leave your dog out this part of the weekend as dogs are curious and can get too close to the action. This can result in severe burns and other injuries. Also, there are many chemicals in fireworks that are toxic.
- With barbeques being popular this time of year, dogs are likely to want to get in on the human food. Avoid feeding your friend any of the human foods at a barbeque. High fat foods can cause gastrointestinal issues; alcohol can cause intoxication; and there are several foods, such as grapes, raisins, onions and chocolate, that can prove toxic to canines. While it is tempting to treat our dogs, it is in their best interest to stick with their favorite daily kibble.
Dr. Dan Taylor is an Emergency Veterinarian at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists. AMVS is a 24-hour veterinary facility providing specialty internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, oncology, emergency, critical care, and pain management. They are located in Longmont at 104 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com .