Keeping dogs safe in the heat

In our area we are welcoming warm weather after quite a bit of rain and many of us are hiking and walking more with our dogs.

Most dogs love to hike with us but dogs are susceptible to heat exhaustion because they have few very sweat glands and must pant to cool down.  

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, skin that is hot to the touch, vomiting, drooling, rapid panting, distress, loss of coordination, collapse, and unconsciousness are signs of heatstroke in dogs. 

Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe in hot weather. 

  • Exercise dogs in early morning and late evening when it is cool. 
  • Make sure the dog always has access to shade and drinking water and that he is not confined to an asphalt or concrete surface. 
  • Consider providing cooling pads, cooling vests, and paddling pools in hot weather. 
  • Monitor play. Young, excitable dogs may exercise to the point of heat stroke so avoid fetch and other intense games.
  • Avoid using muzzles that inhibit the ability of the dog to pant. For dogs who need to wear a muzzle,a basket muzzle that allows them to drink, take treats, pant, and bark is a good option. 
  • Avoid leaving your dog in the car. Every year, warnings go out about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot vehicle but sadly, dogs (and children) still die in vehicles. A car stopped in hot weather can quickly magnify outside temperatures, making it a deathtrap.  Studies indicate that, even with relatively cool ambient temperatures, the rise in temperature inside vehicles is significant on clear, sunny days and rises most within the first 15 to 30 minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process nor decrease the maximum temperature inside.
  • Use caution when hiking with your dog in warm weather.  Ensure you have lots of water for the dog and that the hike is not too long or strenuous for the fitness level of the dog and the temperature. Dogs often appreciate being able to cool off in a body of water, so look out for safe places for dogs to do this.
  • Keep away from the pavement. In hot weather, pavement can get very hot. The pads of the dog’s feet can burn and blister from walking on it. Additionally, dogs are close to the ground and they can get much hotter than we do.
  • Know your breed’s vulnerability to heat. A 2016 study revealed that some breeds are at increased risk for heat stroke. Chow Chow, Bulldog, and French Bulldog are three of them. In addition, overweight dogs, dogs with a brachycephalic skull shape, and dogs weighing over 50kg are also at greater risk.

There are lots of fun outdoor things to do with your dog, but please keep your dog safe while enjoying yourselves.

Jane Bowers B.A, CPDT-KA, CABC, CDBC

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Travelling safely with your dog

Families in many areas are currently enjoying the currently-reduced restrictions around COVID 19 and taking trips with their dogs. To keep those trips enjoyable, we need to be aware of and avoid hazards that may put our dogs at risk when we travel with them.

Before you go, make sure that your pet has identification. As someone who does missing pet recovery, I recommend that all pets be microchipped and wear tags. Now is also a good time to check that all your contact information is current and that the tags are legible. In some areas like ours, the vet can tattoo an identification number into the dog’s ear.

Brush up on your pet’s training with some reward training to fine-tune important behaviours such as coming when called (like Oliver is doing in the photo below) and leaving items alone.

Oliver coming when called

Enroll in a pet first-aid course (some are even available online) and purchase a good pet first aid kit and have it handy in your vehicle and at home. Have your local veterinary office’s number readily available. When travelling, have the contact for vets in your destination area easily accessible.

In your vehicle, use either a crash-tested seatbelt harness or a secure crate to keep your dog safe. Unrestrained dogs can be a hazard to themselves and to others.  If you are injured in an accident, emergency personnel may be delayed in assisting you if a loose adult dog is guarding you and your vehicle. A frightened dog may bolt from the scene.

If your dog is excitable or uncomfortable riding in the car, ask your veterinarian for help with motion sickness and consult a reward trainer to help with your dog’s issues in the car before you leave. Teach your dog to remain in the vehicle until given a cue word to exit (even once their seatbelt harness is undone).

If you use a crate, attach an information sheet about your pet and include vet and alternate caregiver information in the event you cannot care for your dog. As with the seatbelt harness, teach your dog to remain in the vehicle after exiting the crate until cued to exit the vehicle. .

Dogs should never be transported in the bed of a truck without using a secured crate. Restraining dogs in the back of a truck with a leash can result in dogs being hanged.  When in truck beds, they are also exposed to the elements risking hypothermia, heatstroke, eye and ear injury and they have no protection in case of an accident. In many places having a dog loose in the bed of a pickup is illegal and can void insurance coverage.

Prepare your pet for experiences that might be new to them. My dogs sometimes fly in small aircraft. To prepare them for the experience and to make it enjoyable for them, I took them to watch planes from a distance and hear the noise while pairing that with treats they like. I taught them to use a ramp and to readily accept wearing hearing protection. I created a trail of treats up the ramp to the plane and they found more rewards when they entered the aircraft and so on. By the time it came to flying, the dogs were convinced airplanes were a good thing. Sometimes airlines or pilots will require the dogs to be crated, so teach your dog to love their crate and feel safe in it as well as getting them very used to the plane. My dog Amber (shown below) watches take off and landing out the window and sleeps otherwise.

Amber sleeping during flight

When outdoors with your dog, keep him safely leashed until you know the area is safe for dogs. Be vigilant for unexpected risks like unmarked cliffs.  Wildlife can also pose a threat to dogs (and dogs to wildlife) so be prepared to avoid interactions. Familiarize yourself with local risks like certain species of native plants, insects like fire ants,venomous spiders, and parasites so you can ensure your dog avoids them. Standing water can harbor infectious agents. There are many diseases dogs can acquire from standing water and some are transmissible to humans.

Enjoy travelling with your dog and stay safe!

Jane Bowers, BA, CABC, CDPT-KA

Spring Safety!

Soon we will have warmer weather and many of us will be spending more time enjoying the outdoors with our dogs.   It is a good idea to be aware of potential hazards when we are enjoying the outdoors.

Make sure your dog is fit enough for the length and difficulty of the hike you choose to do.

Be familiar with the area you are camping or hiking in. Know where there may be steep drop offs/cliffs or where there is fast-moving water or roadways you may suddenly come upon.

Make sure that your dog is either leashed or trained to such a degree that he or she will always respond to your cues, so they do not harass wildlife or farm animals.

Many species of wildlife are more likely to feel threatened when they have offspring to raise and protect.

Protective raccoons can be dangerous to dogs. Coyotes are a bigger risk to small dogs than larger ones, but coyotes have been known to lure a larger dog into bush where other coyotes ambush the dog. A cornered black bear can easily kill a dog.

On hikes keep your dog close to avoid them disturbing wildlife who are more likely to feel threatened when they have offspring to raise and protect.

Farm animals are also more vigilant when they are raising their young and some can easily injure or kill a dog they feel poses a threat.

Carry fresh water with you for you and your dog. Diseases like leptospirosis are transferred through drinking from infected water sources like ponds. Prolonged exposure to water containing the virus increases the risk of transmission through swallowing, contact with mucous membranes or through an open sore. Dogs that walk-in areas frequented by wildlife are at increased risk of this disease.

Giardia is a parasite picked up from drinking from water sources where giardia may live (for example, untreated water from lakes, streams, or wells) or by swallowing water while swimming in lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, and streams

Check your dog for ticks after being in an area where there may be ticks and talk to your vet about tick and flea prevention. Lyme disease isspread through the bite of infected ticks especially in the spring and fall when ticks are seeking hosts so check your dog (and yourself) for ticks.

Take a first aid course for pets so that, if your dog has an accident despite your preparation to avoid hazards, you can assist your dog immediately and then get him or her to the vet.  Pet first aid kits are available and fit easily in backpacks.

Make sure your dog is wearing identification, so if he goes missing, you are reunited as quickly as possible.  Affordable tracking devices that work with cell phones are now easily available.

Enjoy the outdoors with your dog but be safe out there!