Summer care for our canine friends


With temperatures soaring across the country, it is important to help our canine friends in beating the summer heat.

Dogs don’t sweat. They have no sweat glands except in their foot pads. Water evaporation occurs on the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory system and mouth which is the most important means for dissipating body heat. Panting helps dogs cool off when they are hot. But, when the environmental temperature and humidity is beyond their bodily coping strategies, the situation may be life-threatening. Dogs are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease Here are ten tips that may help to keep our pets safe and cool this summer.

Check for signs of dehydration and keep them hydrated
Heavy panting may be a sign that the dog is critically overheated. Overheated dog will be lethargic and drool excessively. His eyes will be glazed and it may appear a little pale. On lifting his skin, it will take longer than usual for the skin to fall back into place. Darker coats, long haired and overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration. Always make available plenty of fresh cold drinking water round the day. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Carry a bottle of water when going on a walk with your dog.
Cooling his body
Heat rises from the ground, especially on surfaces like cement floor and asphalt, and dogs absorb and release heat through their feet. Ceiling fans don’t cool off dogs as effectively as they do us. Place a wet towel for the dog to lie on. A wet towel does more good on the bottom of your dog than when laid on the top of his coat. Or simply set up a table fan in front of a pan or bowl of ice. It is also suggested to use sprinklers that spray the dog with a gentle mist of water. When spraying it with water, make sure to spray the paws and stomach, not just the top of the dog.
Exercise the dog at cooler parts of the day
Early in the morning or late in the evening are the cooler parts of the day. This time will make the walk more comfortable. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature and humidity. Walk your dog on the grass, if possible.
Take the dog on a swim
The best activity you can do in summer time or hot weather is swimming. Instead of walking the dog, take the dog on a swim, if possible.
Know your breed
Be especially careful with short-nosed brachycephalic breeds of dog (for example: Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Pug, Pekinese) who typically have difficulty breathing. These dogs have reduced nasal and pharyngeal areas and often have elongated soft palates and cannot dissipate heat like other breeds.
Prepare for power cuts
As the temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels cities will run into acute power shortage. Before a summer storm takes out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heatstroke and other temperature-related trouble.
Watch for signs of heatstroke
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, dull eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever (above 103°F), dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, black tarry stools, a deep red or purple gum & tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness. Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over him. Let him drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take him directly to a veterinarian.
Never leave your dog in a parked car
The car retains more heat than an open area, even if it is in the shade or window open. In addition, a dog may get overexcited in the car due to passersby or panic from claustrophobia, making dehydration more likely.
Ventilation and air circulation
Leave your windows open so that fresh air flows through your house even if there is little to no breeze.
Summer diet
Consider feeding a dry dog food. No food will keep the dog cooler. Dogs may not need to eat as much in the summer. If the weather becomes very warm, inactivity may decrease the amount they need to eat. A change in diet can cause diarrhoea. Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and chocolate are the most toxic food for dogs.
Get immediate veterinary attention if you are worried about your pet’s health. The selfless service and loyalty of the canine friend must be reciprocated with care and assistance while it is battling the summer heat. We can practice basic summer safety tips at home to help keep our canine friends safe and cool this summer.
(Dr Debojyoti Borkotoky, BVSc & AH, MVSc (Path), PGDCA, is based in Jorhat, Assam)