We’ve just technically left the “dog days of summer.” According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they ended August 11th, but for most of us in the South, we associate this term with suffocating heat and humidity. For us, and many of you across the country, there remain more weeks to manage. Between the intense heat of the pavement and the debilitating temperatures, the “dog days” are indeed not beneficial for our canine companions. Check out these ways we can safeguard our beloved pups from the very real heat challenges that they face in this season.
Other than dogs who live on ranches and farms, dogs who have yards to play and poop in, assuming they are somewhat grassed and shaded, have the most comfortable situations. When they ask to go out to do their business the most important consideration for their guardian is to be aware when they ask to come inside and to leave plenty of fresh water available for them at all times. Notice I mentioned natural grass and shade. Those are the two crucial safety components.
Paws Can Burn!
Many dogs depend on regular walks for both exercise and elimination opportunities. It’s this group we’ll discuss more thoroughly today. Both concrete sidewalks and asphalt heat up as the day progresses. Interestingly, artificial grass is one of the very hottest surface to tread, and those beautiful faux wood surfaces for decking get mighty hot as well!
One way to determine if the surface is too hot for comfort for your dog is to step on it yourself barefoot. Would you like to walk on that? Skin destruction can occur in just one minute at 125 degrees F.
If barefoot is not your style, there’s another easy method to determine if the surface will be generally safe for paws. By the way, as you might suspect, puppies and older dogs are most sensitive to burning. According to the SPCA of Florida, simply lay the back of your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds. If the heat of the surface has you pull your hand away, then it’s too hot for your dog’s pads. You might be able to fry an egg on the pavement though!
Humidity Can Be Dangerous!
High humidity also presents additional heat challenges for many breeds. So many regions are incredibly humid this time of year. Your dog naturally pants to lower his internal temperature, similar to human sweating. If the humidity is high, this function can be impaired. Breeds that have that delightful smushed-in face like pugs and bulldogs may be prone to breathing challenges and are most at risk.
If your dog is panting and appears disoriented and distressed, get to a cooler place – quickly. In fact, if you suspect your dog is overheated – DO NOT put a wet towel over his head and body. Instead put his feet in water or cover them with a cold wet cloth. According to the AKC, his feet actually sweat too and help to cool his whole body. Not to alarm you, but you must be aware – should the internal temperature of your dog reach 104 degrees F, results could actually be fatal.
Sandspurs – Oh No!
With all the rain and humidity, sandspurs abound! The heat drives them out, and they become sharp and hazardous to your pet’s pads. Tip, if Rover starts limping, obviously suffering with a spur, spit on your fingers before you remove the nasty hitchhiker. Although not the most sanitary action, the saliva forms a barrier on your fingers and allows you to pull out the problematic spur more easily and get the job done with less pain. Of course, try to note the areas where those buggers tend to proliferate – and avoid!
Sensible (and Innovative) Ways to Overcome Heat Challenges
So how can you merge this seasons heat challenges with you and your dog’s routine? Here are a few suggestions:
- Walk your dog in the morning and after eight at night in shady, grassy areas.
- Does your dog like to swim? Consider safe bodies of water for his summer exercise routine.
- Try more mellow games of fetch or chase inside for exercise and play.
And if short “relieving” walks are absolutely necessary on hot surfaces, consider these paw-protecting ideas:
- Musher’s Secret Paw Protection – this is a wax that can be applied to your dog’s feet. It’s non-toxic (should they lick their feet, and you know they will), it doesn’t come off indoors or stain furniture. Musher’s was first developed for harsh winter climates (a musher is a driver of a dogsled) and has been found equally useful for hot environments as cold ones. This product is widely available. Check out their website.
- Dog shoes – seriously. I was amazed to discover the incredible variety of dog shoes available on the market. All materials, colors and sizes, many different soles available. For a unique activity, spend an afternoon shoe shopping for your dog online. You can find dog shoes at almost all pet retailers. Does anyone already own summer shoes for their dog? Please be in touch and let us know how you like them!