Warmer weather has returned, and now is a good time to make needed changes in your dog’s routine and environment to ensure a safe and comfortable spring and summer.
Check your dog’s outdoor environment. Did your fence survive the winter intact? Check for loose boards and areas at the bottom of the fence for any signs of a lapse in security. Your dog should not be able to push through or dig under the fence to freedom, and possible danger; nor should a neighbor’s dog be able to make it into your yard uninvited.
Make sure your dog’s water source is kept in an area that is shaded for the majority of the day, and use a larger container to ensure it always has access to an abundant amount of cool water. Do not use any of the “automatic water” devices that screw directly onto a hose bib. Water can heat up in the pipes to scalding temperatures and, as a result, your dog will not be able to drink during the hottest portion of the day.
Although many dogs don’t enjoy swimming, the vast majority of them appreciate lying in a shallow pool of cool water. Purchasing a small plastic pool for your dog is an inexpensive way to offer more comfort in the summer. Just fill it with a few inches of water, and let your dog do what it wants to with it. Rinse and refill daily.
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Foxtails and stickers that may have germinated in your yard need to be removed, as they have an uncanny way of ending up in your dog’s ears, between toes, and even sniffed up the nose, all of which require veterinary attention.
If you have a short-muzzled dog – bulldogs, pugs, bull mastiffs, boxers, Boston terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, etc., be aware that these breeds simply cannot adequately keep themselves cool outdoors in extreme heat. These dogs need to be indoors during the day, and exercise should occur in the early mornings or evenings.
Walking your dog is a great way to get in some good exercise and enjoy the beautiful weather. Keep in mind, however, that although a dog’s foot pads are thick and tough, they cannot stand extreme heat. Plan to walk your dog during the cooler mornings or evenings, or walk on grass instead of concrete or asphalt. If your dog is on a hot surface – the back of a pickup can get too hot, too – and is alternately picking up one paw after the other, your dog is uncomfortable and burning its foot pads. Move it immediately to a cooler area.
I have a few dogs that love to ride in the car, so I frequently take one or more of them with me when I run errands. As fun as this is, it has to stop when the weather warms. Finding a shady spot and rolling down the windows will not effectively lower the risk of your dog over-heating in your vehicle, which can happen quickly. Better to leave your dog at home until the cooler temperatures return.
Daily “pooper patrol” duty will help keep the fly population down in your yard, and help prevent the spread of disease. And let’s remember that picking up after your dog is just as important out in public.
Finally, expect your dog to start shedding its winter undercoat. Even short-coated dogs benefits from some extra coat attention. If you can’t keep up with the brushing out of dead coat, get your dog to a professional groomer to prevent the coat from painfully matting and possibly causing skin irritation.
Enjoy the weather with your dog when and where you safely can; as always, your dog is relying on your good judgment to keep it safe, happy and healthy.