We’ve had more than 50 days in the triple digits this summer so far, and if you’re from around here, you know that September offers little respite. While you can dive into Barton Springs Pool or choose inside seating at your favorite restaurant, your pup isn’t so lucky. Each year, some Austinites lose their favorite four-leggeds to heat-related accidents. While these hot days continue, let some local experts remind you to make smart choices and provide some tips to keep your dog as cool as you are.
Stephen Haynes, owner and trainer of Fidelio Dog Works, has years of experience with a variety of dogs. His work is highly individualized; he comes to your home to train your dog and is focused on having fun while meeting training goals. Haynes has seen it all, from working with rescue groups to teaching manners to some of Austin’s most prestigious pets, and he has some tips. Do not be worried if your dog eats less when the mercury rises. Just as we crave baked pasta dishes in January and salads in July, this change is a natural reaction to the seasonal shift. Do put sunscreen on your pup’s nose, especially if he is out on the boat with you. This area is within tongue’s reach for most, so do try to use a moderately edible variety, like California Baby. Although giving your dog a buzz cut probably won’t lower his body temperature, giving his belly a good soak with the hose might. The lower half of a dog’s body contains more blood vessels, so creating some evaporation over this area will help to regulate his internal temperature, especially while exercising. Allowing free access to water is hugely important this time of year. Haynes suggests adding ice or even freezing a whole bowl for outside access–a doggie popsicle!
The most obvious of the advice Haynes gives is also that which is too often ignored: Do not exercise your dog in the heat of the day. In the southern states, the heat of the day generally means any time after 9 a.m. Haynes uses 85 degrees as a cut-off temperature, but he also points out that humidity is a big factor that is often overlooked. Additionally, folks will mistakenly feel if they can handle a run, certainly their dog will be fine. Lucky for us, our heads are approximately five feet from the hot black asphalt that radiates heat. Most dogs’ heads are only two feet away, which can translate to an almost 30-degree difference!
Because dogs cool themselves by panting, if they are bringing warm air into their lungs instead of cool, heatstroke can happen amazingly fast. Surprisingly, if your dog is relatively inactive, allowing him to keep his longer hippie hairdo might benefit him by providing an insulating barrier from the oppressive Texas heat.
If you’re not able to get your dog enough exercise before the sun comes up, bring him to a trusted doggie day care center for indoor play. Camp 4 Paws is one of central Austin’s best day care and boarding facilities. Co-owners Casey Davenport and Karen McReynolds, DVM, developed the space with the extreme summer temperatures in mind. Their usual schedule of allowing each play group 30 minutes outside is adjusted mid-spring. As May becomes June, outside time decreases to seven minutes of each 30-minute block, enough for potty, then the group goes back in to air-conditioned play! The counselors pay special attention to dogs with smooshed faces, which may develop brachycephalic syndrome, by giving them extra time to rest and recover from the heat. Dogs that are boarded and need walks will be out and about before the residents of Brentwood head off to work.
Although it shouldn’t be necessary, the experts insist it must still be said: Do not–for any reason, any length of time, in shade or sun–leave your pets in the car. Ever. Keeping your canine family members safe and happy throughout the many hot months in Austin is pretty simple. Be aware of the differences between human and dog methods of cooling. If heatstroke does happen, cool your pup’s body temperature with a cool water bath and get to a vet as soon as possible. If you think it may be too hot, just leave all four of those legs indoors.