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Keep pets cool in dog days of summer

Cooling off in the river is great fun, just be sure to clean off with clean water at home
Cooling off in the river is great fun, just be sure to clean off with clean water at home
photo by Carol Terracina Hartman

Can humans know when their animals are overheating?

It’s important to know the signs, especially this year, when the month of June already broke 164 all-time heat records, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Dogs evaporate their heat in a rather obvious, but somewhat ineffective way: through panting and through their paws. And at times, a cool and well-ventilated room will see Rover panting away in the middle of the floor.

How could he be overheated? How is a human to know the difference?

Rather than studying Fido for signs (taking a pulse, checking paw pads for increasing heat) prevention is the best option. With the National Weather Service predicting warmer than usual summer temperatures this year, here’s a few tips, courtesy of a group of experts:

Some people think shaving a dog’s fur helps them cool off. Wrong! Fur provides insulation from the heat and sun in the summer, according to an article in Cesar Milan’s magazine, Cesar’s Way. That fur also protects tender skin from sunburn.
Better: Brush often to remove dead and matted fur. It prevents fur from separating, which could expose skin to the hot sun.

A bathing beauty at the dog beach? Lovely! Just be sure to hose off at home. Remove saltwater, pollutants, chemicals and other irritants from fur.
Best: Dry climates like much of the American West require conditioners a few times a year to reduce the effects of dry heat, saltwater and chlorine on fur.

Pitter-patter of paws on pavement: that fur between pads protects a dog from grit, gravel and sun-baked asphalt. But let your dogs’ paws look like Dr. Seuss feet and that fur becomes a hazard.
Better: Use round-ended scissors to trim the fur. Cesar Milan recommends in his magazine to trim it short enough so it’s not visible when a dog is standing on the paw, but long enough to cover the pads.
Best: Ask a groomer to trim the fur, especially around the claws. This will prevent Fido from picking up sap and developing sticky fur that picks up everything in its path.

Tongue tied? How a dog’s tongue is hanging during its panting routine is a key indicator of heat vs heatstroke. A long tongue or a sideways tongue is a signal that a dog has crossed into a danger zone: cool, quiet, water NOW!

During these dog days of heat wave, it’s more critical than ever to keep water fresh and abundant and shade available for our companion animals. And on outings, go out of your way to walk on shady paths.

Best: Walk later and walk earlier to avoid the heat of the day. And if you go in the woods, the wildlife are feeling the heat also: snakes are more mobile this year. Watch that Rover doesn’t try to do the tango with a rattler.

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