Keep your dog cool this summer

Published on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 by Steve Guntli

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Is your dog ready for summer? It’s probably not a question most people think about, but animals have a lot of the same summertime needs as humans do. How can they keep cool in the heat? How will they cope with long car trips? Knowing how to deal with these and other problems when they come up can make summertime more enjoyable for you and for your pet. 

It may be tempting to just break out the clippers and shave your dog down to almost nothing to help them keep cool, but this won’t really be doing your pet any favors. Dogs have a natural cooling system, and their fur can serve as insulation against excessive heat. Also, exposing them to too much sun can cause skin problems.  

That’s not to say you shouldn’t treat your dog to a little haircut. The dogs that tend to suffer the most in summer are the ones 
that grow a shaggy undercoat, said Linda Mazor, a groomer with the Pooch Palace in Ferndale. 

“Leaving some hair acts as an insulator against the heat,” Mazor said. “But if they have a heavy undercoat and shed a lot, it’s best to get that out as soon as you can.”

Some dog breeds, like Labradors and pugs, tend to have more trouble with shedding. Mazor recommends staying on top of the undercoat by regularly brushing the dog with a dog rake or a FURminator. If the undercoat is left too long, it will begin to mat and clump and the dog will need to be taken to the groomers.  

Parasites are a year-round problem for dogs in Washington, but mosquitoes can be a particular nuisance in the summer. Mosquito bites can be prevented with specialized drops, and while there’s a large selection of insect repellants to choose from, it’s important to remember you get what you pay for.

“It’s best to spend money on higher-quality drops, like Frontline,” Mazor said. “The generic ones won’t do anything and you’ll just wind up wasting money.” 
Car Rides:

An unruly dog can turn a long car trip into a nightmare. A barking, snarling, whining or vomiting animal is the last thing you want to be trapped in a small space with for hours at a time. And it’s not much fun for them, either; some animals love riding in the car, but others may have been made anxious by too many surprise visits to the vet.

Lupita Blackwelder, owner of Lupita’s Upscale Puppy in Blaine, has had plenty of experience travelling with dogs (she has seven of her own, and moved to Washington from Texas), and she offered her advice for keeping your pets happy and calm in the car. 

“When travelling, you have to think safety first,” Blackwelder said. “Make sure your pet has a harness, ID tags and a non-retractable leash. Make sure they have all their vaccinations, and keep a copy of their vaccination records on hand in case of emergencies. And always keep the dog in a car seat or a carrier, so they don’t run around in the car and cause an accident.”

Obviously, it is always a good idea to keep fresh water on hand, and it’s extremely important to never leave a dog alone in a hot car, because they can overheat much faster than people can.  It’s also important to plan ahead, both for yourself and your dog. Make sure any hotels you stay at are pet-friendly, and keep a poison control phone number on hand in case your dog encounters any snakes, scorpions or nasty new parasites on one of your pit stops.  

The solution for getting your pet to stay still and calm on car rides is to start early and slowly, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). If you have an animal that’s anxious on car rides, try feeding them one meal a day in the car, with the engine off. Once they get used to that, try taking short trips to fun locations, like dog parks or hiking trails, and they’ll begin to associate car trips with fun activities. 

While on trips, try giving the dog a toy stuffed with a food treat, like peanut butter. This will give them something to occupy themselves with in the backseat while on the road. 

As for dogs that get sick, Blackwelder recommends visiting the vet before any long trips to see if your dog is susceptible to carsickness. If they do have a problem, there are several medications your vet could prescribe that might help.