By Alan Green and Jessica Schavone
It’s going to stay might hot during the next couple of months. During summer activities, it is important to realize that the extreme heat in the Lowcountry can be dangerous to some pets. This month Jessica Schavone, our outreach coordinator, provides a quick overview of summer safety for dogs.
Most pet owners are aware that dogs should never be confined to areas without shade or climate control during the heat of the Lowcountry summer. Many cities have laws against leaving dogs confined to boats or cars unattended. The heat, however, poses some additional hidden dangers to pets. Being familiar with them could make this a happier, safer summer for every member of the family.
High ambient temperatures: It is important to realize that dogs cool themselves in a different way than we do. The combination of heat and humidity makes it quite a bit more challenging for them to do so. The breeds that are most severely affected are brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses, like bulldogs). These dogs commonly have a hard time carrying out normal activities as the temperature climbs and are not suited for outdoor activities during hot summer afternoons.
Because dogs are often unfamiliar with their limitations, knowing the signs of heatstroke could save your dog’s life one day. Affected dogs commonly exhibit elevated body temperatures, excessive panting, may have sticky or dry gums and appear tired or confused. If you suspect that your dog has gotten too hot, seek a climate-controlled environment, wet the animal with tepid water and get in touch with your vet right away.
Hot pavement: In the South Carolina Lowcountry, the pavement, sand, or pool deck can get uncomfortably hot when exposed to the unforgiving afternoon sun. The skin on your dog’s feet isn’t much different than the skin on your feet or hands. If the ground is too hot for you to stand on barefoot, it’s also too hot for your best friend to do so. Checking for hot pavement while wearing shoes, however, is also very straightforward: Just place the back of your hand on the pavement for at least 10 seconds. If it feels too hot for you — it is too hot for your dog. It’s that simple.
Luckily, there are a couple ways to avoid walks on hot pavement. Firstly, it may be a good idea to reschedule long afternoon walks for the early morning or late afternoon hours – just until this heat breaks later in the year. Alternatively, one may choose to seek shady or grassy areas for dogs to take short bathroom breaks midday. If you live in an area where you cannot avoid sunbathed pavement, purchase dog booties for your best friend at your local pet store. This footwear will provide some protection from the pavement and keep your best friend looking stylish while you’re out on the town.
Wildlife: There are multiple species of venomous snakes in the area and they all tend to be more active during the warm summer months. Any interaction between a dog and a snake warrants a trip to the vet, as snake venom affects multiple body systems. Though toxicity can be fatal in dogs that do not receive medical attention, venomous snake bites can frequently be managed very effectively with early medical intervention.
Taking a couple of simple precautions will make the summer more fun for your furry companion. Encourage your dog to play early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures may be more conducive to exercise, supervise all outdoor activities and make sure that any pet working or playing outside has access to plenty of fresh water to ensure that you and yours enjoy a safe summer.