But enough about me . . .
My last post, me thinks, was a little too self-indulgent (self-pitying?). Yes, it’s hot in coastal Mexico in the summertime, I know that. I’ve spent the last five summers here sweating it out in high temps and higher humidity. It’s brutal, no question. But as a humanoid, I have skin. Skin that’s bare and has this nifty little cooling device called sweat. Pets don’t. They walk around in fur coats that, while stylish and PETA-approved, can’t be removed and hung up when it heats up. Even short-hairs can suffer from too much fun in the sun. For them it’s a double-whammy: over-heating and sun burn. Ruff!
There are ways to help your pet beat the heat, which are obvious to most people: providing adequate water and cool shelters, confining exercise to mornings and evenings, spritzing with a cool hose or shower (if he likes it) even getting her a turtle pool to splash around in. But I still see people (here in Mexico and in Canada) abusing their dogs by leaving them out in the open (often chained so they can’t seek shade), providing little or no water, making them run alongside them on bikes or sit with them on a hot beach in direct sunlight while they work on their tan, and, worst of all, leaving them locked in hot cars. Where are these people’s brains? Have they been sauteed in the sun?
Regular readers of this blog are caring people with common sense. But if you’re new here and truly haven’t given this any thought, here are seven tips for keeping your four-legged friend safe in the sun:
1) Provide plenty of fresh water (so they avoid drinking sea water, which can make them sick) and access to shade to prevent dehydration. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke, just as humans are (watch for signs of excessive or laboured panting, weakness, drooling or vomiting). They cool themselves through panting (which in itself takes a lot of effort as well as moisture loss) and via the pads of their feet, so don’t restrict their breathing with a muzzle or force them to walk or run on hot sand or pavement. If the surface is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s foot pads.
2) If your dog is listless and uninterested in water, offer him a slushy. We freeze dog treats with a little water in ice cube trays, which Rufus and Kahlua love, although I’ve heard of people freezing chicken or beef broth to bump up the fluid intake (and replace electrolytes). And listening to them crunch on the cubes provides me endless seconds of laughter.
3) Apply pet-appropriate sunscreen (sun block for babies also works) to your short-haired dog, especially around the tips of the ears. As in humans, sun-burned skin is painful!
4) Keep your dog away from sizzling meat other than their own — that juicy steak on the barbie. The tempting smell of the grill might be too great but will result in a seared tongue if your dog is dumb enough to lick it.
5) Swimming is a great way to refresh Fido, but for the love of god, don’t keep throwing that stick or Frisbee into the rough surf over and over. Sure it’s fun for him, but he often doesn’t know his own limitations. He can tire easily in the heat and succumb to currents or undertow. Set a limit, play within it. And watch her around swimming pools; too much ingested chlorine can make her sick.
6) Go for a close shave. Keep long-haired pets’ coats as short and groomed as possible (brushing away loose hair yourself helps), but not too short. The fur helps protect them from sun damage (and wrinkles).
7) Keep pets inside during the hottest part of the day (between 10 am and 2 pm, although here in Mexico, it’s stifling up until sundown!). Kahlua and Rufus like to take siesta on the cool tiles or under the fans, but also enjoy the occasional cold cloth to the head and belly. Experts say that flat-faced pets are particularly sensitive to high temps. Pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers and Persian cats can’t pant as effectively, leaving them more vulnerable to heat stroke. Also, elderly, fat cats and sick pets (especially those with heart and lung disease) should always be kept as cool as possible (give them A/C or give them death!).