In the heat of a Bermuda summer, dog owners will often hear that familiar panting sound.
As humans we may find August temperatures unbearably hot and sticky, but just imagine what it is like for your canine companion, who has to wear a fur coat on their back.
This summer please remember to keep your hot dog cool in the house and when you’re out and about.
The Bermuda SPCA offers the following safety tips.
Keep your dog groomed
If you have a longer haired dog, brush their hair regularly to avoid tangles. Tangled hair can trap excess body heat and lead to overheating. The same advice also goes for cats.
Make sure your dog (or cat) is up to date with vaccinations and treatments, particularly fleas and heartworm. Heartworms are parasites transmitted by mosquitoes, and can be fatal to dogs and cats.
Heat and shade
Keep any animal inside as much as possible. But if they have to go outside, keep a close eye on them. As the sun moves throughout the day, a patch of shade will not be shady for long, so don’t leave your pet outside for long periods of time. Animals overheat quickly. Never leave them alone outside during the hottest part of the day.
Ensure your pet always has clean, fresh, cool drinking water, preferably in a ‘tip-proof’ bowl.
Try to take your dog for a walk in the early mornings and evenings, to avoid the day’s heat.
Remember that asphalt or sand can reach scolding temperatures on their paws, so avoid walking on the road and stay in the shade.
Take some water with you and a collapsible bowl.
The SPCA also recommends: “Older dogs, smaller dogs and any breed with a shorter snout should not be walked during the day at all during the summer months.”
Off the leash, your dog has the potential to over-exert themselves in the summer heat. Use caution.
Swimming and boating
If introducing your dog to the water, do it slowly and gradually.
On a boat a dog should always wear a flotation device, such as a dog lifejacket.
Don’t allow dogs to drink swimming pool water — the chlorine will upset their stomachs.
As tempting as it may be to take your dog to the beach to run and swim-off, remember that dogs in Bermuda are not allowed on public beaches from April 1 to October 31.
Dogs may salivate around a barbecue but try not to feed them human treats.
Keep pets away from the chemicals used in insect/mosquito sprays, and away from citronella candles.
If there is a firework display, make sure your dog is on a lead and cannot bolt.
It does not take long for a car to feel like an oven. If it’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit (F) outside, it will only take 10 minutes for the temperature to reach 100F inside. At 85F the temperature will reach 90F inside within five minutes, and if it’s 100F outside, it will only take 15 minutes for your car to hit 140F.
Even with the windows left slightly rolled down, leaving your dog in a car can be fatal. If you have to park up, don’t take them along for the ride. It’s just not worth the risk.
Watch out for heatstroke
Watch out for heavy panting, staring, an anxious expression, refusal to obey commands, a warm skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting or collapse.
If your pet has any of these signs, try to stay calm and contact a vet immediately. Cool down your pet by placing cold wet towels on them to bring down their body temperature.
Age, weight and breed are all factors in how quickly a dog can overheat. Remember that older dogs cannot regulate their body temperature as easily.
Snub-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers and Shih Tzus cannot pant as efficiently.
Overweight dogs will have extra layers of fat which store heat and can restrict breathing and regulation of body temperature.
Tripswithpets.com, an online source of pet travel tips offers the following safety advice.
Signs of heatstroke also include: rapid panting; a bright red tongue; thick, sticky saliva and diarrhoea.
Move your pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water over their body.
Apply ice packs or cool towels to their head, neck and chest, and let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
Then take the dog to the nearest vet.
Take an umbrella if you’re out and about to provide shade, plus lots of fresh, cool water. Don’t forget a towel.
Water can also be used in a spray bottle to spray the dog down and cool its temperature.
It can also be used to clean sand and saltwater from a dog’s paws, thus preventing irritation and dried out sensitive paws.
Wherever you go, respect others and follow public safety rules.
Don’t let your dog out of your sight, and do remember to clean up.
The American Kennel Club also offers summer tips for dogs.
n Don’t let a dog drink sea or saltwater. Excessive sodium can make them sick. Put some ice cubes in your cooler as a treat.
n Don’t forget the sunscreen. See online for sunscreen made for canines.
Hairless and light-skinned dogs are more susceptible to sunburn.
n Rinse your dog off.
Salt and sand can irritate your dog’s coat, so rinse them off after playing. n
For more advice
By Amanda Dale BermudaSun