Summer is here, and that means longer days, warmer temperatures and – hopefully – more time available to spend with your dog. It also means looking at your pet’s daily routine with fresh eyes, and ensuring that the “dog days of summer” are both safe and enjoyable.
Start by taking a good look around the yard, where your dog spends time. Things to make sure you provide are adequate shade during the heat of the day and access to plenty of water that is also under shade. Many dogs thoroughly enjoy frolicking in water, and a small wading pool makes it easy to provide them with some splash time. Make it an extra special event by tossing some hot dog chunks in and let the games begin.
When the temperatures really start to rise, your dog is best kept inside. Particular attention must be paid to our short muzzled breeds (bulldogs, pugs, etc.) who tend to really struggle in the heat. Change your walking routine so that you and your dog get out in the cool mornings or evenings, and regardless of the type of dog you have, don’t walk them on hot concrete or asphalt. Dog’s footpads can burn and blister. Place your palm on the concrete for 10 seconds; if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog to be walking on it. Another extremely hot surface is the truck bed. Even with a moving vehicle, the metal bed can heat up quickly, leaving a dog with no way to avoid scorching his footpads. A safer alternative is to contain your dog in the cab, in a crate, or leave him at home where he can be comfortable. Never, of course, leave your dog unattended in a vehicle during the summer months – not even for a few minutes.
Flies can create many problems for our dogs, but are easily kept at bay as long as things are sanitary. Don’t feed your dog outside – a food bowl, even if empty, can attract flies. The same goes for a dirty, unkempt or matted coat – fly eggs become maggots, resulting in a true health crisis for your dog. Routinely bathe and brush your coated dog, or get him off to the groomer and let the professionals do it. And daily “pooper patrol” in the yard will give flies a lot less of a reason to hang around.
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The Fourth of July holiday is a dangerous one for our pets. Even the most stable of dogs can have a rough time and become anxious and scared when the fireworks start. Keep your dog inside, as far away from the sounds of fireworks as possible. A cool room with lots of background noise and a yummy chewing project may do the trick, but if not, talk to your vet about some pharmaceutical help. The right drug can make all the difference. Ask for a benzodiazepine diazepam (Valium®), alprazolam (Xanax®), chlordiazepoxide (Librium®), lorazepam (Ativan®) and clonazepam (Klonopin®). These drugs work by increasing the activity of a chemical in the brain that interferes with activation of the fear networks. They can be used on a short-termed basis, and are a far better choice than the commonly prescribed Acepromazine.
Taking a vacation this summer? Perhaps your dog would benefit from going with you. If he travels well in the car, behaves well out in public and likes to be a part of the action, consider including him. But if he is anxious when in the car or uncomfortable around strangers or new locations, he’d probably be happier remaining behind. While dogs usually cope well with being left home alone during a work day, leaving them to fend for themselves overnight or longer is not a good idea. So if your dog isn’t going to join you on your vacation, make arrangements for him to be cared for and kept safe in your absence by having someone stay at the house, or take him to a reputable kennel; this way, you can all enjoy your time spent apart, knowing your dog is safe and happily awaiting your return.
Lisa Moore’s pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.