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Dog Days of Summer

Running dog on green grass

Summer is here. We look forward to longer days, warmer weather, less clothes and lots of time outside. For those of you fortunate enough to have a canine companion, you know that they have been patiently waiting for this time as well.  Long car drives to the beach, playing fetch in the lake, getting to “clean up” any dropped food near the grill. Our dogs look forward to this time of year possibly more than we do ourselves. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. To ensure your pup has a great and safe summer, here are some helpful hints to keep in mind:

Consider changing up time of walks. Hours of sunlight are much longer in the summer, but also much stronger in the middle of the day. Consider switching up their walk or exercise routine to early morning or evenings, when the sun and heat is less intense. It is smart to bring a water bottle with a collapsible bowl so your dog can rehydrate when you take a water break for yourself.

Be mindful of surfaces. Black asphalt and pavement can get extremely hot and are harmful to your pup’s sensitive paws, and so are chemically treated or fertilized grass. Try to stay on shaded walkways or natural park grass when possible.

Know your dog and their breed’s limitations. Some dogs are brachycephalic (short faced), such as pugs and bulldogs. They have a harder time cooling off in the heat because they can’t pant as efficiently as other dogs. If your dog is having trouble breathing, slow down and shorten their walk. Also, dogs with short hair, white hair, or pink skin are prone to sunburns. Be sure to share your sunblock with your fair-colored friends, especially on their ears and snouts.

Provide your pup with options to keep cool. If they are spending any extended amount of time outside, make sure they have a shaded area to retreat to, but be weary of doghouses. Sure, they provide shade, but they can also trap heat inside and can be equivalent to leaving your dog in the car on a hot day (which is an definite no-no). If you have the room in your yard, consider a kiddie pool for them to sit and cool off. Don’t have the space or can’t deal with a soaking wet dog all the time? Try laying a wet towel in the shade for them to lie on. Remember, dogs cool off from the bottom up, so a cool towel on their belly can offer them great relief. If you have an extra fan, set it up for them with a bowl of ice in front of it. Not only will this give them a cooler breeze to enjoy, but as the ice melts, it also doubles as a cold water dish. No matter what, always make sure they have access to fresh, clean and cool water. Adding ice cubes is a nice treat.

Know the signs of overheating and dehydration. Dogs naturally pant to cool themselves down, and while that might be normal, excessive drooling is not. Check their eyes – if they are bloodshot, there might be room for concern. Do a “skin-pinch” test.  If their skin is slow to move back down in place, they could be suffering from dehydration and may require a trip to the vet for fluids.

Give into some summer indulgences. As much as you might enjoy going for a nice dip on a hot summer day, so does your dog. Swimming can be a wonderful way to get their energy out without the risk of overheating. It also is much easier on older, arthritic dogs, or pups with joint discomfort.  And what is a nice swim without a cool treat afterwards? With just a few, simple ingredients that you probably have around the house, you can make a cheap alternative to the expensive store bought doggie ice cream brands and your pup will love it!  Make a batch and have these treats on hand for those hot days when they deserve that extra special treat.

Ingredients:  3 ripe bananas
1-cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
32 ounces PLAIN yogurt

Method: Blend all ingredients.
Pour into ice trays and freeze.
Once frozen, pop out and enjoy.

Sully Sullivan is the owner of Paw-T-Walks pet services in Alexandria, VA and proud mom of her two mutt-pups, Brodie Baggins and Potter Paxton.

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