Preparing for the Dog Days of Summer

My "son" - 12 year old Bacchus, relaxing on the grass (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

My “son” – 12 year old Bacchus, relaxing on the grass
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

“The dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt:  I want.  “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, kiss you.”  There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.”

Caroline Knapp

Sporting a distinguished grey beard and moustache (and a festive scarf), Bacchus loves to do what we affectionately refer to as “the San Tropez thing.”  This is when he requests that he be let out so that he can lie down (either on the deck or grass) while the hot, South Florida sun beats down on him. He does this for ten minutes each day, presumably to let the sun heat up his old bones.  Then he knocks (paws insistently) on the front door, to let us know that his sun tanning session is over.

He’s a smart dog.  He knows that after ten minutes in the hot midday sun, he will start panting.  He is one of the lucky ones because he is an indoor dog, one who has the reign of the entire house.

Outdoor animals and strays don’t have the luxury of an air-conditioned home or a steady flow of fresh water and food.  Too often, they suffer from dehydration, heat stroke and some don’t even get to see another summer.

Since we are two weeks shy of the “dog days of summer,” I thought I’d write a list of some “do’s and don’ts” to keep in mind.  One would think that the list is all common sense, and it is – actually.  Yet somehow, people  still manage to treat their pets carelessly.  Some really do mean well but are simply distracted with their hectic lives , others just don’t think or don’t know any better, but then there are some who are downright neglectful.

Do’s (indoors)

  1. Do keep the home at a comfortable temperature at all times, even when leaving the house.  Our house pets who, after all, are also guarding the homestead, deserve to enjoy the same comfort that we would — had we stayed home. Yes, it’s important to save energy, but the hot summer months is not the time to be overly frugal with temperature control.
  2. Do fill the pets’ water bowls regularly (3-4 times a day) with fresh, cold water.
  3. Do groom the dogs regularly, especially their ears.  Summer is flea season and this easily becomes a problem if it’s not nipped in the bud. Prevention is everything. 
  4. Do monitor the pets’ breathing and overall health. Certain dog and cat breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, Persian and Himalayan cats) have flattened faces and are more susceptible to breathing problems, especially in the hot weather.

Do’s (outdoors)

  1. Do keep pets in the shade.  Trees make such a big difference in a yard. 
  2. Whether indoor or outdoor, Do fill the pets’ water bowls regularly (3-4 times a day) with fresh, cold water.  For outdoor water bowls, add some ice cubes. It’s a nice thing to do this for the strays, as well.
  3. Do carry a portable water bowl (and a supply of water) when embarking on a long dog walk or car trip.
  4. Do keep dogs away from the fire pit or barbecue grill.
  5. Do keep an eye out for heatstroke. If a pet is staggering, panting excessively, vomiting, has dark/bright red tongue/gums, having seizures  – these are signs of heatstroke.  Contact the family vet immediately and, meanwhile, use cool water (not cold water) to bring body temperature down.  Offer  ice cubes to lick, while waiting for the vet.
  6. Do invest in a raised pet bed for outdoor lounging.  It keeps the mites and pests at bay.  There are some great cooling cushions on the market — perfect for the summer months!

Don’ts

  1. Don’t do any dog walking during the hot summer day (between 11 am and 6 pm.).  Hot pavement burns paw pads.  Walk in the evening or early morning, when the weather is more bearable.
  2. Don’t have Fido run alongside while jogging, in the hot summer months (even in the evening).  Why put added stress on his heart?
  3. Don’t leave pets in a parked car – ever.  Even with the windows partially rolled down, the car heats up quickly.
  4. Don’t set off fireworks near your pet.  Bring him indoors beforehand.

Incidentally, some of these do’s and don’ts also apply to humans:

  1. Stay hydrated. 
  2. Don’t worship the sun excessively.
  3. Wear a hat.
  4. If the urge to jog during the hot summer months is so great, try to do so in the evenings or early morning.
  5. Above all, enjoy the company of your pets and be kind to all the neighborhood strays.
Stray cat Foo (center) and kittens Fric (left) and Frac (right) (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

Stray cat Foo (center) and kittens Fric (left) and Frac (right)
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

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