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K-State Today

July 20, 2012

Keep dog safe, comfortable in summer heat

Submitted by Nancy Peterson

Soaring temperatures are prompting scheduling changes for many activities, and should be considered a signal for pet owners to make adjustments in their pet care.

If the family’s dog typically stays outside while his or her owner is at work, it’s time to consider making a place for the dog in the home, said Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and clinical associate professor in the Pet Health Center at the Veterinary Health Center at Kansas State University.

Nelson, who describes herself as a "family doctor for pets," urges dog and other pet owners to limit their pet’s exposure to heat.

If a dog or other pet must remain outside, Nelson advised placing a dog house in a shaded area; the dog house should be large enough for air to circulate, and, large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around inside.

If a shaded area isn’t available, she suggested securing a tarp to shade an area, or providing access to shaded space underneath an elevated deck.
Nelson also advises:

* Place fresh water in a spill-proof dish or container, and checking and replenishing the water supply several times a day.

* Provide fresh food daily, and removing uneaten food that can spoil or attract other animals.

* Make sure that a dog has a place to relieve his or herself, while also keeping the area as clean as possible; older dogs may, for example, sit or roll in feces, which will stick in their coat and attract flies.

* If taking a pet on errands, do not leave the pet in the car or the back of the truck.

* Time a walk, run or a trip to the park during early morning hours with cooler temperatures, or at dusk, when temperatures typically cool. Avoid concrete, which can hold the heat of the day; tar, which can melt and stick to paw pads; and asphalt, which also can retain heat and cause burns to the pads of the feet.

Nelson explained: Dogs cool themselves by panting, air flowing across their body, and laying on cooler surface. If a dog should become overheated, gums will become bright red, and drool will thicken.

“We do lose dogs to heat stroke,” said Nelson, who advised if a dog appears to be overheating to immediately offer water, wet the coat down with cool water, and take him or her to a veterinary clinic.

A dog’s breed, size, age and health will be factors in deciding how much exercise a dog should have. For example, a dog with a short (stubby) nose is unable to pant as effectively and can overheat more easily.

Generally, in favorable weather conditions, a smaller, healthy dog will have the capacity to walk 20 to 30 minutes or more, and a larger, healthy dog, at least 30 to 40 minutes, she said.

More information about caring for a dog or other pet during seasonal weather changes is available at: http://www.avma.org/animal_health/default.asp.