Do we really need to be reminded that dogs shouldn’t be left in cars in the summer? I wish we didn’t but unfortunately there are still deaths and hospitalizations occurring from this very thing. In this article I will discuss this as well as some other summer hazards and what we can do to prevent them.
Heat Stroke and Exhaustion:
Heat stroke is when the body temperature rises too high. This will result in body changes which can lead to death. The first signs that your dog is becoming too hot include weakness and panting, but sometimes the symptoms set in so fast that it can be too late by the time you realize that something is wrong. The stationary car heats up within a matter of minutes, even with the windows down and this can result in heat stroke and even death to a dog or person left in a car.
Although this is the most talked about cause of heat stroke it is not the only one. Dogs may also develop heat stroke from a simple walk outside. On days that it is very hot it is a good idea to schedule walks in the early morning or the evening when the temperatures are not so hot. If you must walk during the day, decrease the length of your walks and allow access to water for your dog.
Summer activities often involve fun in the water. Whether it be swimming in the backyard pool or boating on the lake. Remember that not all dogs are natural born swimmers and even those who are can get into trouble. If you do have a backyard pool be sure that your dog knows where the stairs are to get out. Even if your dog doesn’t use the the pool he needs to know how to get out in case he falls in. There are commercially made lifejackets for dogs that can help protect your dog in the backyard, at the beach or while boating.
Many people believe that pets can’t get sunburns but that’s not true. Just like humans, your pet’s skin is sensitive to the ultraviolet light of the sun and can develop sunburns as well as skin cancers. White animals are more sensitive and the body areas most affected are the underbelly and the tips of their ears. Sometimes owners like to get their pet’s fur shaved short for the summer. They think that the excess fur is too warm for them, but in fact their fur helps to protect them from the sun. For this reason it is not a good idea to have your pet’s fur clipped too short in the summer months. One of the best ways to prevent sunburn is to avoid sun exposure at mid day when the sun is at it’s hottest and if your dog will be in the sun you can use a sunscreen meant for babies that contains UVA and UVB protection. This can be applied on exposed areas of skin such as the belly.
Fear of Thunderstorms and other loud noises:
It is not uncommon for dogs to have a fear of loud noises and summer is a time when we run into many of them. Two of the most common include thunderstorms and fireworks. Some dogs will merely hide under the bed while others can go so far as to destroy their environment. This is a true anxiety and dogs who experience it have little control over their behavior once it starts. This is why you need to deal with noise phobias before they occur. As with any behavior modification this may not be an easy task and will require hard work on the part of you and your dog. It is best to speak with your veterinarian regarding your pet.
Helping your dog to cope with this anxiety often involves multiple techniques used together. Here are a few of the most popular:
Noise desensitization using pre-recorded recordings of rain, wind and thunder. To do this, find an area where your pet is usually at ease. Start by introducing a recording of mild storm effects at a low volume. It is important to provide positive reinforcement while the recording is playing in the form of affection and treats. Do this for a very short time frame in the beginning. As you progress, increase the volume of the recording and increase the time as your dog tolerates it. If he becomes anxious stop the session and try again at another time. As you progress the storm sounds should become more severe and louder. Do this until your dog seems to be able to sit through the recording at a loud volume, without becoming anxious.
For the very anxious dog this may not work alone and you may need to seek the advice of your veterinarian. Your dog may benefit from phermones or anti-anxiety medications.
These work by helping to decrease your dog’s anxiety level so that they can relax more during desensitization. However, these products do not work alone, and support and continued hard work is still a necessary part of this process.
Another product that can work for storms is a special rain jacket. This jacket is meant to be worn prior to an oncoming storm. It is thought to help in two ways. The first is similar to the effect of swaddling a baby, whereby it helps your dog feel more secure and the second is to dampen the effect of the electrical current that your dog feels prior to and during an electrical storm. There are often a number of factors that make your dog feel anxious during a storm. The two most common are the sounds and the electrical current. Dogs have very sensitive hearing and so can hear a storm coming long before we can. They are also able to detect a change in the electrical current in the atmosphere. The jacket helps to decrease this effect, thus decreasing the anxiety.