By Debby Kay ©2017 all rights reserved
Summer can spell disaster for a service dog if you don’t take a few precautions to insure their safety and well-being. Heat and Hydration are two huge issues that many people over look for themselves so I want to bring these to attention first. Even short coated dogs are still wearing a fur coat and all dogs “sweat” through their feet and tongues. So when you are walking on a sidewalk and see wet doggy footprints and your dog’s tongue is hanging fully out of his mouth and is bright red, you have a dog that is overheating. It never ceases to amaze me how many times I have stopped people with dogs to point this out and they seem oblivious to such obvious signs. Should you see these signs, stop walking, seek shade or a cool place, and get your dog cool – not cold- water.
Hot sun on black pavement can create a situation where your dog’s pads can get burnt. The same for very hot sand at the beach. If you have to walk your dog out in these places you may want to try protective boots for their feet. I carry an umbrella to protect me and my dog from the sun too, if you do this make sure to have one big enough to cover you both. Also if you put boots on the dog don’t forget to take them off as soon as you can. Remember that dog’s sweat through their feet and the boots will not allow for cooling.
About water during the summer, the key is to keep it cool and not ice cold. I remember one person at a dog show on a very hot day feeding their dog ice cubes and icy cold water to keep him cool and the dog was very sick that night. They will be panting very hard but cool them gradually and don’t force ice down them. It is much better to put cool towels over their neck to bring the temperature back to normal.
Many people forget to swap out their winter service vest with a cooler lighter one for the summer. I suggest a harness with straps rather than a cape that will trap heat. If you like the cape look and want to keep it, try a cape made of mesh material instead. Depending on your dog’s tolerance of heat you may just opt for collar tags and no vest. Remember the ADA does not require a service dog to wear a vest.
A few other suggestions are to keep your outside walking errands to early morning, early evening after the sun goes down or of very short duration. Avoid things like outdoor concerts or events that are in full sun with no shade or on hot streets. If you must go, try and plan breaks where the dog can cool down before you continue.
I let me dogs spend a good deal of time outside at home so they acclimate to the weather outside. They have access to shade but learn to adapt to the temperatures with less stress. By keeping them fit and trim they can also deal better with the heat. Fat overweight dogs of any breed or age cannot deal with the temperatures outside as easily as a lean fit dog.
This summer promises to be a hot one, take care with your dog, whether service or companion, so you both can enjoy the time you have together.