Our grooming expert Eileen Geeson brings you the best advice to keep your pet free from trouble in the heat
Dogs can suffer in the hot weather and every year pets left in cars or other enclosed areas die. Even left at home we need to be sure there are safe, cool areas for our dogs to rest and shelter from the heat. Heavily coated dogs can quickly overheat and dehydrate, particularly when exercised in blazing heat.
Some dogs, like the Basenji, are bred in hot countries and cope with more heat than many other dogs.Even dogs from hot countries, such as the Basenji, naturally bred to withstand higher temperatures than some other breeds, will still seek shade in the heat of the day. Free supply of water should always be available in any weather, but particularly when the temperature rises.
One aspect of welfare we can do something about is the grooming of the different coats. From the thickest coat of the Chow Chow to the silky fineness of the Yorkshire Terrier and the thick wool of the Poodle, there are certain ways in which we can help to keep our pets cool.
Coat types vary in the pedigree and crossbred dog; here are some recommendations for keeping the dog cool.
The hand stripping of some breeds like the Airedale Terrier or the Wire Fox Terrier not only makes them look smart, it helps to keep them cool and maintain an even temperature. If we remember that with a normal temperature of 101.5°F – which is naturally higher than ours – the dog is warmer than we are at all times. In hot weather this can be fatal if the dog does not have enough water and fresh air and the natural ability to pant to cool them or they have restricted breathing through short noses and flat faces of breeds like the Pug.
The perfectly groomed Briard will stay cooler than a matted or felted dog.Very thick coats of the Spitz breed dogs, Akita, Pomeranian, Keeshond and others can be very debilitating, and a good brush and comb, removing dead hairs will enable the skin to be aired and kept cooler. Comb these breeds with a medium spaced metal comb to remove the unwanted hair. The dog will feel lighter, brighter and cooler. Spray in cold water as you groom to help cool and allow for easier removal of dead hair.
Dogs with curly coats can get quite matted if dead hair is not removed with brushing and combing. The comb is an essential tool to prevent matting or felting. Heavy felt can form close to the skin and will need to be split apart with fingertips before removing with a mat breaker and/or the end of a comb.
The Sporting Trim of the Poodle has enough skin coverage to prevent sunburn.The Poodle is one breed of the thick curly-type coated dogs that generally benefits from being clipped. The Lamb trim is popular in many countries for the pet dog of many breeds, but in hot weather a shorter “sporting” clip can be adopted. In Britain it is accepted that this breed can be exhibited in the show ring in any traditional trim, but in any country where rules apply a Poodle must be in the Lion or Continental trim, it can be kept cooler by having the “continental” style of trimming which gives the rear legs, underneath, and front legs access to fresh air. Unless the dog has become accustomed to being shaved close and thereby grown a thick protective layer of hair, it is not a good idea to shave them close when the weather is too hot as sunburn will more than likely result.
Water should be given in small amounts and frequently.
Trimming, hand stripping, and clipping coats helps keep the dog cool as does the removal of dead hair in the thicker coated breeds.
Shaving to the skin is not a good idea as a certain amount of hair can protect skin from sunburn.
Hot weather can irritate and promote skin problems with scratching and itching making matters worse. Mites or “walking dandruff” can easily be picked up from dry grass. The blood sucking “tick” is one parasite to watch for; the sooner the tick is removed the less likely it will cause disease.
Silky coated dogs are perhaps more suited to hot weather, but here again good grooming with the removal of dead and loose hair will improve condition and help to keep the dog cooler. Many of the silky coated breeds kept as pets rather than exhibited in the show ring, such as the Australian silky and the Yorkshire terrier are clipped to about 5cm of coat for easy maintenance and a cool look.
Dogs with pale or white coats often have brown or pink skin that can easily suffer sunburn. Don’t ever feel hesitant about using sunscreen on the top of bare patches around the muzzle and on the delicate pink area behind the nose.
Summertime is a blessing, but care must be taken with our dogs to ensure they are protected from heat exhaustion, which in many cases is fatal. At home, travelling or working the dog needs our thoughts on ways to keep cool. A little thought can save lives.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion – look for dry mouth, heavy panting, reduced skin elasticity and sunken eyes – immediately call the vet for advice.
What to do if your dog has heatstroke
Pay attention to the symptoms and respond quickly.
Get into the shade. Apply cool water to the inner thighs, stomach and foot pads of the dog.
Use running water. A tap or hose, but never submerge your dog in water, such as in a pool or tub – this could cool the dog too rapidly, leading to further complications like cardiac arrest.
Use cool – not cold – water. Using ice or extremely cold water slows blood flow, thus slowing the cooling process.
Don’t cover the dog. Sitting with the wet dog in a car with the air conditioner blowing is an ideal cooling situation.
Keep the dog moving. The circulating blood tends to pool in certain areas if the dog is lying down, thus preventing the cooled blood from circulating back to the core.
Allow the dog to drink small amounts of water. Cooling the dog is the first priority. Hydration is the next.
Avoid giving human performance drinks. If you can’t get an overheated dog to drink water, try offering chicken or beef-based broths.