Written and photography by Cheryl A. Fallstead
THINK Before you Walk
Dogs are always eager to take a walk, but in the summer, you need to time those excursions more carefully, ideally heading out in the early morning hours. Dogs don’t sweat and they come complete with fur coats, so they feel hotter than we do. Also, their paws are in direct contact with the ground and their bodies are parallel with and much closer to the hot ground.
Try the walking surface barefoot or hold your hand on it to see if it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. Some dogs even wear booties to protect their feet, but they take a while for dogs to get used to them.
If you strike out on a walk on a warm day, be sure to provide water for your dog. Try one of the various devices that are a water bottle and dog bowl in one, or you can a get plastic or waterproof fabric water bowl. They’re foldable so you can just stuff in your pocket.
BRING on the Water
Water is also essential if your dog becomes overheated. Dogs can get heatstroke, which may lead rapidly to death. Signs of heatstroke are panting, drooling, rapid pulse, and fever. If your pet shows these signs, immediately immerse the dog in cool water and seek emergency veterinary assistance. To help prevent heatstroke when playing outdoors, cool your dog’s belly with water from time to time or provide a pool with water.
A Huge NO-NO!
You’d think it goes without saying, but many dogs die each year from heatstroke after being left in cars, so we’ll say it: Absolutely never leave your dog in the car, even with the windows rolled down! When it’s only 80 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to more than 120 degrees in just minutes. Cracking the windows makes no appreciable difference in the temperature inside the car.
Las Cruces Animal Control Supervisor Gino Jimenez says if you’re thinking of taking your dog along when you’re running errands, “Leave them at home.” If you must travel with your dog, he advises, always take the dog out of the car with you when you stop.
Animal Control intervenes about 20 times a summer when dogs are left in hot cars, but many more calls end up with the car already being gone, although the department makes these calls a top priority. If you are worried about a dog left in a car, call Animal Control. Gino points out that New Mexico doesn’t have a Good Samaritan law that applies to dogs and if you break into a car to rescue a dog, you could be charged with a crime.
Make your Yard COMFORTABLE
When you leave your pets at home, if they don’t have access to the cool comfort of your house, they’ll need shade and plenty of water. A place that will keep them cool in the shade as well as protected from monsoon rains and thunderstorms is essential. Your dog may even enjoy a kiddie pool with a few inches of water.
Teach Fido to SWIM!
Speaking of pools, don’t assume your dogs know how to swim. They may need some training to be able to safely navigate water over their heads. Support your dog to ensure the “doggy paddle” gets started with both front and back legs. Life vests are available to keep dogs safe in a pool or when out on the boat with the family.
WATCH OUT for Creepy Crawlies
Summertime is also when we see an uptick in mosquito, flea, and tick populations, all of which can cause problems for your pets. Potentially deadly heartworm is transmitted through mosquito bites. Fleas make the dogs (and you!) miserable and ticks can also transmit disease. Have your dog tested for heartworm and talk to your vet about medication to prevent the disease because, in this case, an ounce of prevention is certainly better than a pound of cure. While you’re there, make sure you dog is caught up with all vaccinations.
An even more dangerous bite is from a rattlesnake. Vic Villalobos, the “Mayor of Dog Cruces” and editor of Dog ‘Cruces magazine, is also active with search and rescue training with his dogs. He encourages people to take advantage of snake avoidance training classes, which use a live snake to teach dogs to stay away. He adds, “It is so important to carry enough water for your four-legged friends and to always be aware of your surroundings to watch for snakes. This will make your summer a lot more enjoyable for all involved.”
Enjoy the dog days of summer, but plan ahead for your pet’s safety!