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Protect your dog from heat stroke this summer

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Hot Dogs and Heat Stroke

People don't say "the dog days of summer" for nothing. Pups love the warmer weather just as much as you do. But the season's harsh heat and sweltering sunshine can be problematic for your pet. Each summer, hundreds of dogs are treated for heat stroke, while many more suffer the ill effects of ailments like heartworm, dehydration, and even drowning. But the good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep your pup safe this season.

Wet Dog

Beat the heat

The saddest sight you will see this summer? A poor pup locked in a car on a hot day. While no one is safe in a parked car during the sun, dogs are especially susceptible to succumbing to heat stroke. In fact, according to the AAA Chicago Motor Club, a car's interior temp can climb to 170 degrees on an 85-degree day in under 20 minutes, even with the windows cracked. So if you need to run an errand and happen to have your pooch along for the ride, take her in with you (or better yet, just leave her in your air conditioned home with plenty of water).

But the car is not the only place a dog can be stricken with heatstroke. Though getting fit with your pet is fun, energetic games of catch or extra-long walks or runs in high temps can also weaken a pup. So on super-hot days, avoid the sun by taking her out in the early morning or evenings only. And after any exercise, make sure she hydrates with plenty of water, then cool her off with the refreshing spray of a garden hose (or, just fill up a kiddie pool for your pup to splash in).

Water watch

Speaking of pools, it is important to note that not all dogs are capable of doing the, well, doggie paddle. Breeds that are built low and heavy, including bulldogs and basset hounds, can do more sinking than swimming, while Doberman pinschers and boxers also have trouble in the water. And some dogs just don't like the water and may freak out once they go under. So this summer, protect your pup around pools, ponds, or oceans by watching him at all times or wading into the water with him (if you are extra-cautious, you may even want to invest in a puppy life preserver). When he's done swimming, rinse him off with fresh water to avoid skin irritations and dry his ears to prevent ear infections.

Buggin' out

Spread by mosquitoes, heartworms (parasites that attack your dog's heart and nearby blood vessels) are much more prevalent in the summer. As is your pup's propensity for picking up fleas and ticks, which are equally as dangerous. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a single flea can bite a cat or dog more than 400 times, and may cause anemia in young, old or ill animals. So if you have yet to do so, take your dog to the vet for heartworm treatment (available in a monthly medication) and a Lyme disease vaccination, and stock up on tick- and flea-fighting medications (talk to your vet about which one is perfect for your pet, or visit The Humane Society of the United States for more info on products). And to keep fleas and ticks out of your home, experts recommend cleaning you dog's bedding with detergent as well as mopping and vacuuming your floors regularly.

Skin safety

Just because they are usually covered with a healthy coat of fur doesn't mean dogs are protected from sunburn. Pale and short-haired dogs are especially at risk for a burn, which usually occurs on the bridge of the nose, the abdomen, groin, and insides of the legs and may lead to skin cancer. To protect your pup's skin, keep her out of direct sunlight by parking her in the shade or staying inside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And whenever you are basking in the sun with your dog, apply SPF 30 on her nose and ear tips as well as along any bare skin showing from parts in her fur on her head or back. Human sunblock works just fine, but there are products made just for dogs, like Pet Sunscreen.

For information on how Fido is good for you, be sure to read The health benefits of pet therapy.

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