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As the hot, humid and often sunny days of summer are finally upon us, it’s time to start giving serious consideration to our beloved pets and how we can keep them safe and comfortable as the thermometer starts to soar.

Heat rises up from the ground and more so on surfaces like sidewalks and asphalt driveways, and dogs absorb and release heat through their feet. Dogs can't sweat and can only cool themselves off by heat being released through their paws and by panting. Any pet that has become overheated will drool excessively and we should be prepared to step in and make sure our pet is cooled down.

So what can we do to keep our pets cool on very hot days? As dogs have sweat glands in their paws, you can have him stand in a cool pool of water or, alternatively, give him a foot soak which can lower the dog’s body temperature. You may also soak a towel in cool water and place it on your pet’s neck or back or, if he is lying down, on his chest, under his armpits or between the hind legs. As a rule, if it’s too hot to place and keep the back of your hand on hot pavement for a few seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

As the temperature rises, it’s best to walk your dog either first thing in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler and the sun is less intense. On very hot days, try to keep your dog on grass or dirt as opposed to pavement. If it is extremely hot, the temperature at or near 30C, it’s best to take your dog out only long enough to do his business, then bring him indoors. This is the time to get him mentally stimulated by playing some brain games, or doing refreshers on basic training with some sits, downs, and stays, or even working on teaching him a new trick.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a cottage with a beach and lake or a swimming pool, swimming can be a great way to not only have fun with your pet, but also keep him cool on a hot summer day. But remember, not all dogs are swimmers and certain breeds such a pugs, bulldogs, boxers and some hounds have difficulty in water due to their pushed in/flattened snouts and have difficulty breathing. You should consider your dog’s age, fitness level, and breathing ability and unless your dog is a natural “water dog”, be sure to fit him with a life jacket specifically made for dogs. Preferably one with a handle on top in case you have to grab him up and out of the water. If your dog is new to water and swimming, take it easy and don’t force your pet, letting him get used to the water on his own terms. Also, as a responsible dog owner, be sure your pet has done his ‘business’ before you go into the water.

Another thing we should consider with our pets is their skin sensitivity to the sun. Many of us think that our pets are protected from sun exposure because of their fur coats. But, even though their fur does provide a certain amount of protection, the nose, lips, tips of the ears and areas of the body where the fur is sparse and the skin pink, can get sunburned. We should put a non-toxic sun screen on these areas to be sure our pet is protected. Certain dog breeds benefit from a short haircut for the summer or a full shave, but always ask your vet if your dog is a candidate for a new summer hairdo, and be sure to protect the skin with a good sunscreen or a light t-shirt.

While out with your dog, be it walking in the park, on a beach, or in your own backyard, always be sure he has easy access to plenty of cool water. You can carry a portable water bowl with you to fill up with cool water from a thermos or cooled water bottle. If going on a longer walk in the park or on a hiking trail, take some frozen water bottles with you to keep other bottles cool and to have extra water on hand as it melts. If you and your dog are in the backyard, be sure there is always fresh cool water available and keep the bowl in a shaded area.

The last and most important thing, which can never be stressed enough, is to never, ever leave your pet alone in a car on a hot day. Even if you park your car in the shade and leave the windows open, a car can heat up very quickly and dogs can only withstand high temperatures for a short period of time. If your pet is left in a parked vehicle for any more than 15 minutes, the interior temperature can rise quickly causing your pet to have heat stroke or suffer brain damage or many other health issues. So even though you think your pet will enjoy a trip to the store with you, it’s best to leave him at home where he can be cool, comfortable and stay safe.

We hope you all enjoy a long, hot summer – stay safe, cool, and have fun.

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