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Q&A: Preparing dogs for summertime heat

Posted May 14

Copper, a Labrador-Whippet mix, looks for a drink of water while hanging out with his owner David Johnston of Raleigh during Bark in the Park night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Wednesday, June 19, 2013. It was the second time this season the Bulls worked with Second Chance Pet Adoptions to raise money for the no-kill animal shelter.  (Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati)

— Ready for summer? So is your four-legged companion. 

With warmer temperatures come more time outdoors. Dr. Page Wages, a veterinarian at CareFirst Animal Hospital in Raleigh, answers some simple questions about how to prepare dogs to handle the summer heat. 

Wages graduated from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005.

Q: If my dog's activity levels remain consistent all year round, how much more water should he/she be consuming during the spring and summer months? 

A: It's not a cookie-cutter answer because every dog is different (think bulldogs vs. yorkies), but water should be available to dogs at all times during the summer. Some dogs drink more and some don't, but it needs to be available wherever they are.

Q: How warm is too warm for dogs in the car? 

A: Dogs should never be left in the car when the temperatures are higher than 65 or 70 degrees outside. Within about 10 minutes, the temperature in the car will climb as much as 30 degrees even if the windows are open. Heat stress and heat stroke settles in quickly during the summer months. 

Symptoms of heat-related disorders:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Appears weak or in a stupor

Treating heat-related disorders:

Place the pet in the shade or air conditioning immediately, and apply cool – not cold – water to reduce the animal’s core body temperature. Get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Q: Will hot pavement hurt a dog's paws? If so, what are the best ways to treat those burns?

A: Hot pavement can definitely hurt a dog, especially if they aren't used to walking on it. Some dogs who walk on hot pavement a lot have tough pads that can handle the heat, but most of our dogs are inside dogs who might take a longer walk on the weekends. 

These are the dogs that are most at risk. Like anything, once they have callused pads, the risk decreases. Every spring we see a dozen or more dogs with burnt pads after playing outside. If the pads do get burned or torn, they heal pretty fast. That said, they need to be bandaged and treated. Most cases require antibiotics and pain medication. 

Q: What sort of risk do mosquitoes present?

A: Mosquitoes can very bad for dogs because they are the vector for heartworms, which is endemic in this area. One bite from an infected mosquito can transmit heartworms. If a dose of prevention is missed, the disease could progress and lead to heart failure and death.

Please make sure your dog (and cat) are on a heartworm prevention monthly (all year round). Other than the heartworms, some dogs are sensitive to mosquito bites and will get an itchy spot like people. Those normally resolve quickly. 

Q: What are some strategies to help dogs make it through thunderstorms or other traumatic noise events? 

A: Not every dog is the same with thunderstorms and fireworks.

Most dogs don’t care about the noise, but there are a handful of dogs who get very fearful, even to the point of injuring themselves. For mild noise anxiety, holding the pet and watching a louder movie or listening to the radio to drown out the noise will help.

Thundershirts are a fantastic tool to calm a dog down. It is a shirt that wraps around the dog and helps prevent some of the air pressure change effects on the fur and is almost a coddling effect on the dog (like an infant). I love these!

Anxitane is also an over-the-counter vitamin for dogs designed to calm them that is an option for the mild anxiety during storms. For the more severe cases, medication and sedatives are sometimes needed.

It is not unusual after a big storm for animal control to pick up a number of owned pets that got scared and ran during the storm. So if your dog is anxious during fireworks or storms, please keep them inside.

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