As temperatures continue to rise, don't forget about your four-legged friends.
Dogs don't regulate heat the same way as humans. They sweat through their paws and dissipate heat through respiration. This is much less efficient than our evaporation system so they run a greater risk of overheating. Here are some things that you can do to keep your dog comfortable on warm summer days:
Tarps: Whether your dog is in a run or loose in the backyard, it's vital they have shade. Tarps are inexpensive and easy to install. We prefer the mesh ones because they allow for more airflow. The plastic ones can hold heat and, depending upon wind velocity, be hotter than direct sunlight. Mesh tarps also tend to last longer since they don't trap air or rain. Many of our clients have tried plastic versions only to have them ripped to shreds by the wind. Conversely, we have a number of mesh tarps that are a few years old and in great shape.
Pools: These are inexpensive, durable, portable and easy to clean. Go to any outdoor doggy event, and you'll see them. You usually can find 6-foot diameter pools for less than $15 and 4-foot pools for about $8. Another benefit of providing your dog with a pool and shade: it greatly minimizes digging. In warm weather, most digging occurs in the quest for cool earth.
Ice: It doesn't get any cheaper. Put ice in all of the water bowls as even a few cubes will make a huge difference. Furthermore, if your dog is crated during the day, ice will not only minimize fluid intake (which translates into fewer potty breaks) but keeps him cool should the temperature/air-flow not be ideal. Letting him chew on ice cubes, however, should be kept to a minimum.
Fans: Another inexpensive, yet effective, way to keep your dog cool. One or two fans placed strategically in the house will keep air moving, which keeps everyone comfortable.
Crate fans are a more direct way to provide airflow and can be used almost anywhere. They are especially important if your dog is crated in a vehicle. Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach dangerous levels in a few minutes, even with the windows open.
If you think your dog is overheating, get cold water on the paws and the entire undercarriage as soon as possible.
Here a couple of things not to do:
Shave your dog's fur: The coat acts as an insulator in all seasons. Shaving that insulation can increase the chance of overheating. Plus, you run the risk of sunburn.
Soaking your dog entirely, then crating him: The humidity and the ambient heat act like a sauna, which is what you are trying to avoid.
Jim Beinlich and his wife Bianca own Cool K9's Dog Training in Colorado Springs. Find them at www.coolk9s.com or www.facebook.com/coolk9s.