Dog Days of Summer
BY LAUREN SANDRIN
We all love the ability to get outside and enjoy the activities Colorado has to offer come summertime, but are we protecting our loyal canine companions mid-adventure? It goes without saying that leaving a dog in a hot car in the height of summer is deadly, but what about the lesser known dangers like heat stroke, burned paws, and threats from wildlife?
Burned paw pads are extremely common this time of year and culprit number one is probably your dog’s favorite thing: walks. Pavement gets baked all day by the sun and can reach temperatures over 100 degrees! While our four-legged friends have pretty tough feet, they are not immune to high heat. Paw pads can be blistered by the temperature of the ground, leading to incredibly tender feet that hurt to walk on followed by sloughing of damaged tissue, leaving behind raw skin. Much like a human sunburn, it’s important to keep damaged feet clean and free of debris.
Luckily, burned feet can be avoided by walking in the early morning or after the sun has set. If these options aren’t available, check the temperature of the pavement by touching the back of your hand to it for at least five seconds. If you can’t keep your hand on the ground that long, it’s too hot for a walk on paved surfaces!
Dogs that are burning their paws will often lift their feet in an attempt to relieve the burning, but unfortunately they can’t hover! If you see your dog lifting its feet, “donkey kicking,” or fidgeting while standing still, that means the pavement is too hot.
Heat stroke is a major risk in the summer heat.
Dogs are unable to sweat through their skin like humans and rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. Many people think shaving their dogs will help with their heat management, but the opposite is true! Dogs with fur coats (labs, goldens, huskies, etc.) need their two layer coats to trap cooler air near the skin. When these dogs are shaved, they lose their insulation and are now at risk of sunburns.
The best thing you can do for dogs with double coats is brush out the loose undercoat on a regular basis and provide adequate shade and hydration. Never leave a dog without water. They may not sweat like us, but they still need an increased amount of water during hot months!
For dogs with hair-type coats (poodles, doodles, maltese, shih tzus, etc.) ensuring their coats are maintained regularly via grooming helps them stay mat-free and reduces the debris trapped in the coat. These dogs are at an increased risk of matting in the summer as the chances of playing in water goes up. These coat types mat harder and faster with a constant wet/dry cycle without thorough combing and proper drying techniques. Mats are painful for dogs and can cause the skin underneath to bruise, or in extreme cases, create hematomas or self-amputations. The only humane way to remove extensive matting from dogs is to shave them out—but don’t worry! Hair will grow back and you may notice an increase in playfulness in a freshly shaved dog because it is no longer uncomfortable to move.
Wildlife is out in force this time of year, from bears to deer to rattlesnakes.
The only way to ensure your pet isn’t hurt by wildlife is to properly contain them and check your yards before sending Fido out to do his business. Leashes, fences, or other barriers to free roam not only protect your pet from the wild critters that make Roxborough what it is, it also protects those animals from an overzealous dog that wants to play. Help keep Roxborough wild and ensure your pets don’t haze our wild neighbors!