Critter Care: Good summer practices for your pets

Another good intention foiled.

With all the heat and humidity we’ve been facing this summer, I decided to pull Bailey’s old kiddie pool out of the basement and fill it up in the back yard for Tiva to enjoy. After all, when I’d taken her out on trails once before, she’d joyously found the muddiest little creek to flop her belly in when she’d wanted to cool off.

So I rinsed out the blue pool, put in clean water that would be about up to her elbows and called her over. She came and stood next to it, wagging politely. I put her front feet in, and she pulled her front feet out.

I put her front and back feet in. She took two steps across the pool and stepped out on the opposite side.

I opened the back door. She ran inside and plopped down by the air-conditioning vent.

The pool, naturally, is back in the basement. So much for having a hardy water dog.

While Tiva is fortunate enough to have a variety of places to beat the summer heat, many other pets are consigned to the outdoors, and they have to deal with the temperatures while wearing a fur coat.

Because we’re already seeing temperatures in the high 90s, we can expect the rest of the summer won’t get much better and we need to remember that it’s up to us, as owners, to provide our friends the resources to survive it.

First of all, please remember that Lawrence has a tethering ordinance. You may not chain your pets outside for an extended period of time without time off the leash. But whether or not you chain your dog outside, be absolutely sure that he or she has access to shade. Some of us may enjoy lying in the sun, marinating in sunscreen, but furry pets will overheat that way. It’s simply cruel to ask them to stay out there in the direct rays.

Next, make sure your pets have access to cool, fresh water. Animals sweat only through their mouths and footpads — an extremely inefficient means of cooling down. They need to rehydrate just as we do, so they need a lot of water available to them. Green or scummy water not only fails to refresh them, but lurking bacteria could also make them sick.

Keep in mind that snub-nosed breeds, like boxers, pugs and bulldogs, have an especially hard time staying cool by panting. Humans have bred out the natural canine shapes of these dogs’ snouts, and with the length of the nose went what cooling efficiency it had.

Athletes, you need to take extra precautions with your dogs. You may like running or biking in this heat in your coolest shorts and tank tops, but when you take your dogs with you, they are still exercising in fur coats. In addition, their exercise takes place much closer to the pavement, which retains and releases heat at even higher temperatures than what you’re feeling yourselves. If it’s hot for you to touch the pavement barefoot, remember that you’re asking your friends to exercise barefoot on four feet.

Owners of black or dark-furred animals, the weather won’t give your pets a break. Dark colors retain more heat. And if your pet has thin fur, a light-colored nose, bald ears or other furless patches, then sunscreen is a must. Both dogs and cats can sunburn, and repeated burning can lead to skin cancers in them, just as in humans.

For those of you who just can’t bear to deny your pets a ride in the car, PLEASE, for heaven’s sake, only take them if you’ll be in the car with them every second. Under no circumstances should you leave the animal in the car, either in the shade or with the engine running to keep the air conditioning going. I’ve read two stories in the past of police officers leaving their canines in patrol cars with the AC going, only to come out later to find that the cooling units had failed and the dogs had died horrible deaths.

Statistics show that when temperatures outside are between 72 and 96 degrees, temperatures inside a car can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 20 minutes, 34 degrees in 30 minutes and 43 degrees in one hour. Cracking the windows or parking in the shade DOES NOT help. Leaving your pets in a hot car is no different than putting them in a hot oven.

Summer can be fun for all of us, but only if we play fair. Don’t ask more of your pets than you could manage yourself. If you see an animal in a hot car, call the police, and let the Lawrence Humane Society (843-6835) know if you see animals in distress. Help us all make it safely through to cooler weather.

— Sue Novak volunteers with the Lawrence Humane Society.


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