Dog days of summer: Warm weather presents challenges to Peninsula pet owners, vets

Contact Reporterjoblack@dailypress.com

As temperatures soar this summer, pet owners are tasked with facing additional challenges in order to keep their beloved animals safe.

Heat, sun intensity, storms and summer activities can prove to be dangerous to our four-legged companions, according to local vets and business owners.

Keeping cool

At Happy Dog Daycare in Newport News, owner TC Panecaldo said she and her staff keep a close eye on how long their animals are outside in the summer.

Small dogs are let outdoors for five to eight minutes while their larger counterparts are let out for 15 to 20 minutes. Short-nose dogs, like pugs and bulldogs, are outside for an even shorter amount of time.

"They have a difficult time breathing," Panecaldo said. "Because they run around and we don't want them to be overheated."

Normal temperatures for dogs range from 100 to 102 degrees, said John and Karen Savell, vets at Deer Park Animal Hospital.

If the temperature reaches 106 degrees, it can result in damage to kidneys and internal organs.

"Short of using a regular thermometer there's nothing really to do to get an accurate temperature at your home," John said.

Signs of overheating in dogs can range from excessive panting to red gums.

To help your pooch keep cool, wet rags and towels can be placed on them as well as wetting their paws, the Savells said. Plastic kiddie pools also can be used to help dogs remain cool if they spend most of the day outside.

One cool down method to avoid is giving a pet ice water.

"Their bodies are not regulated to handle ice water," Panecaldo said. "It closes their throat. Provide lots and lots of tap water."

Loud noises

The Savells and Panecaldo were quick to dismiss thunder coats as an option to keeping dogs settled during storms, fireworks and other loud noises.

Panecaldo said to pay special attention to how you treat your dog during a storm.

Her dog routinely shook during bad weather and began to pick up that habit to seek attention.

"I was holding her close, applying pressure and she would stop," she said. "Some days when there was nothing going on she would do the same thing and I knew it wasn't the right thing to do."

Stick to medications prescribed by vets to help keep a dog calm if it's spooked by storms, the Savells said.

If you're boarding your dog, make sure to bring its toys, blankets or extra treats to provide comfort and to calm them down.

Grooming

Grooming comes with its owns risks and particularities for dogs during the summer, according to Emily Weniger, a groomer at Happy Dog.

She said single-coated dogs, like terriers and poodles, should be cut every four to six weeks.

Double-coated dogs, like huskies and labs, destroys their natural ability to stay cool in the summertime.

"You want to do a good de-shed and get a lot of the extra undercoat out," Weniger said. "That way their undercoat will work the way it should. It works like an AC unit."

Dogs run a marginally risk of sunburn, especially those with very short hair and a light-coat, the Savells said.

They recommended using a dog-specific product on the ears and underbelly of the animal.

If applying sunscreen to your pet, make sure to give it a good wash to rinse off any buildup the product leaves behind.

Hand to paw

Before taking your animal on its walk, press your hand against the ground. If it's too hot for you, it's too hot for pet, according to the Savells.

"Sidewalks are lighter colors so if there is a choice between that and asphalt, that's the better choice," Karen said.

To avoid smoldering surfaces, walk your animal in the morning or late evening.

Black can be reached at 757-247-4607.

Five tips to keep your pet safe this summer

•Never leave your pet in a car without the air conditioning on.

•If the surface is too hot for your hand, it's too hot for your dog.

•Use preventive medicine so your animal avoids getting fleas and parasites.

•Provide unlimited access to fresh water.

•Apply sunscreen if your pet has a thin coat.

Information courtesy of the Humane Society and American Veterinary Medical Association.

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