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For the love of you pet: Keeping cool during the dog days of summer

By By John Beck
July 26, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.


I don't have air conditioning at my house. My dog does well during the cooler season but when the temperature is as hot as it has been, and looks like it will continue to be, he seems to struggle a little bit. He is a long-haired dog, so I thought about shaving him, until my friend told me the hair provides protection from the heat. What should I do? Any other suggestions?

Seems like everyone is having trouble with these outrageous temperatures that we have to endure. Every summer offers a challenge to Victoria residents, especially those without air conditioning.

Making sure your dog has the basics is very important. Fresh, cool water is a must. Adding ice cubes to the water bowl a couple of times a day will help encourage hydration while keeping your pet cool. Provide shade for your pet. Make sure the shade is not enclosed. A dog that has to go into a dog house that doesn't have any ventilation to get out of the sun is not getting much relief. Placing a box fan in a shaded area is best.

Make sure you are moving the fan, if possible, to other shaded areas throughout the day. Keeping in mind the areas of shade in the morning are different from those in the afternoon. A lot of people provide a "kiddy pool" with fresh water for their pets to cool off in. Make sure you are changing the water at frequent intervals.

Animals typically do not eat as much when the weather is real hot. And when they do, it is usually first thing in the morning or late at night. So don't be surprised if your dog doesn't appear to have a great appetite.

As far as shaving your pets coat off, there is some debate to that. A hair coat works to protect your pet from extreme cold and extreme heat. If you shave your dog very short, you are exposing the underlying skin to the sun and extreme heat, which dogs aren't accustomed to.

This invites the opportunity to sunburn and increases the amount of surface area on the skin that is directly affected by the temperatures. My suggestion would be to trim your pet's hair. You can attach a certain length of blade to clippers that will allow for some hair to be trimmed away without completely shaving your pet.

Lastly, if you want to exercise or play with your pet, do so during the cooler times of the day (before the sun comes up or after it goes down). Check on your pet a couple of times a day to make sure everything is OK.

Signs of heat stroke include, but aren't limited to: excessive panting after resting for longer than 20 minutes, lethargy, vomiting, bloody stools and unresponsiveness. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me or your veterinarian.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.

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