Here we are, in the first few weeks of summer. And, not only summer, but “COVID-19 Summer” (insert sad face with one single tear here). During this unusual time of social distancing, outdoors is the best place to be. We want to include our dogs in the fun, but we have to be smart. Before we rush out to enjoy “kumbaya” moments in nature with our furry pals, we need to be aware of the potential hazards.
Here are a few to keep in mind:
Protect the feet/pads from the heat and hard surfaces. One positive effect of being sheltered in place: It has encouraged more people to get out and exercise. Running is a popular activity, and dogs can make great jogging buddies. However, while we have running shoes to protect our feet from the heat, our pooches are on bare paws – and the scorching sidewalk burn and injure their paw pads. Imagine running on white-hot coals without shoes or socks on…and for miles. That’s what running on hot asphalt can be like for a dog. And when their feet get really hot, their body temperature can increase to levels that can threaten health issues – like heat stroke. So, if you like running with your dog, invest in some “dog booties” (like soft shoes) that can help keep the paws and pads safe as well as help maintain a safe body temp.
There is no need to shave! It’s very understandable to think that when it’s hot, your Golden Retriever would prefer a buzz cut. But, not so fast. Believe it or not, that thick, furry coat provides insulation for a dog, while also protecting them from the sun’s heat (a natural sunscreen, if you will) – all instrumental in helping maintain a proper body temperature. Shaving them down doesn’t help – and can possibly hurt them. If they have large matts in their coat? By all means, have those shaved out. But, leave the luscious locks.
Stay on leash! So you’re outside in a gorgeous, green park with your active, furry buddy who is pulling at the leash, ready to do the 100-yard dash. You look down and say, “We’re the only ones here. Why not let her run free?!” Well, here’s why not: Because while your dog is very smart, she’s still a dog – and these days, one that’s been cooped up more than usual. Her natural tendency is to investigate, to hunt – and all it takes is one sound from the trees, one flirty squirrel, and she’ll be off to the races. Before you know it, she comes back with a leg swollen from a snake bite, or a face full of porcupine quills. Or even worse, she runs out into a busy road. All of those scenarios amount to spending anxious hours at the vet ER – not the way you want to spend a summer day. It is certainly worth keeping that leash attached.
Dogs love jumping in the lake…and all dogs can swim, right? Actually, not all dogs can naturally swim, so some of them don’t “love” it. For those dogs, lifejackets are a great option (and yes, they do make canine-specific floatation vests). For those pups that do have an affinity for lake-wading, be careful of dangers like snakes and insects. Also, lake water can sometimes make dogs ill if they ingest it.
Stick to dog food – even during the barbecue. We’ve all done it. You’re finishing up that last, succulent pork rib. Then, you look down to see your sweet floppy-earred friend, with those sad eyes that seem to be saying “Please sir…might I have some?” You figure “One little piece won’t hurt, right? Why not allow him to enjoy this tasty bone before I clear my plate?” This why: We see more patients with pancreatitis, with severe gastrointestinal distress, ingestion of foreign bodies (like bones) during the summer and holiday seasons that any other time of the year. Don’t let the sad eyes pull you in – just say no. Dogs should eat dog food. Not our food. Period.