Dogs and Sun, Don't Mix!

  • 14/06/2011
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I think everyone has had really bad sunburn at some time in their life. I'm sure you can remember the pain. I bet you also took precautions after that time to help reduce the risk of sunburn again. Why then would we not take those same precautions with our dog?

It's so great when the summer weather arrives. We tend to spend much more time outdoors than we do the rest of the year (depending on where you live), and of course our best furry friends will be at our side. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to make sure you protect your pet as you would a member of your family. But don't use human products on dogs; some ingredients are toxic to dogs. For instance zinc (used in many human products) is toxic to dogs and causes GI problems and anaemia.

Dogs suffer from the same things as us; sunburns, skin irritations, skin cancers, heat stroke and dehydration as well as sore & burnt feet and especially noses. Some easy sun care tips can help you keep even the most active dog healthier when exposed to the sun.

Dogs with thin hair coats, light-coloured noses, and white fur are most at risk from sun exposure. Dogs with areas of white fur or areas where the coat is thinner are also at risk. All dogs are at risk in areas of the body with less fur, such as the groin and belly. If your pooch is like Henri and likes to lie in the sun on his back, you should give him a slather of sunscreen specially made for dogs. Not only will his belly be safer from the sun but you pooch will be loving you for the scrub!

A dog's nose is highly sensitive and can become very painful when their tissues are dry, chapped or cracked. A natural nose balm for dogs has nourishing, healing and moisturising ingredients. The soothing balm can be applied to a dog's nose as a preventative measure for dryness or cracking or it can be used to treat painful cracking and dryness that has already occurred. It's like chapstik for dogs!

Another method of sun protection is covering them up or keeping them in the shade. An idea for camping or the beach is a little pup tent that will fit in a small space amongst in the millions of things you've already packed, will set up in minutes, and will provide much needed shade where nature didn't provide. Light, wet towels are great to drape on them when they're still and when you're on the go a light beach or Sun Suit will block those nasty UV rays.

When we get overheated running around in hot weather, we often put a wet towel around our necks. And when our dogs get hot, we often do the same for them hoping it will help them in the high heat. Better to dampen their paws. It's the paws that help a dog release heat, so dip those pads in cool (but not cold) water for a quick pick up. You can even rub the paws with an alcohol wipe in a pinch, and the wipes are easy to carry on walks and hikes in your pocket.

The sun is not only harmful to their skin but also can cause damage to their eyes. A dog hat protects your dog's sensitive areas of the face from sun's damage. Or for the more adventurous, dress your pup in Doggles. These cool looking sunglasses have a deep lens cup, flexible frame, and wider nose bridge and comfy head strap. They have 100% UV protection, are shatterproof and anti-fog. Recommended by vets.

Let's not forget about their feet! How many times have you hopped across a barking hot parking lot with no shoes on, making weird noises and waving your arms in the air? Think how your little buddy's feet must feel (and he has twice as many). If your dog swims a lot or has wet feet for a good period of time, it softens up his paws and makes hot pavement dangerous. Small dogs should be carried over hot pavement and for larger dogs there are beach booties, some are disposable. Walking long distances on pavement or sand is not good for dogs in the summer; try to stay on the grass as much as possible. If their paws do get burnt you can apply a paw balm which will reduce the chances of burns and injuries from heat, cold or rocky terrain.

And often with the strong sun comes the high heat. Way too many pets die each year from ignorant owners leaving their pet confined in cars and other places when the heat is dangerously high. Pets at risk for heat stroke include those with a dense hair coat such as the golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and Chows, etc. or ANY pet in direct sunlight for longer than 30 minutes when the temperature is greater than 90F. Make sure you always have water and bowl on hand and try to stay out of the sun between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00. Limit the amount of time you spend in direct sun to 15 to 30 minutes for those dogs easiest to burn. Longer with fur protected dogs, but then watch for heat stroke. Direct sunlight includes lounging on the inside of the porch glass door!

The rule of thumb- when it gets above 85 degrees, you should be cautious when exercising your dog outdoors. For most dogs, moderate activity for 30 minutes is good. But when the temps exceed 95 degrees, it's probably best for both of you to leave out the outdoor exercises until it cools down. Try to go for walks or jogs either early in the day or evening, or try to stay on shaded trails.

When your dog starts to have fast or laboured breathing, starts to refuse walking, or acts unhappy, your dog may be overheating. When this happens you should stop, rest, give your dog water and find a cooler place. Mostly just do for them what you would do for yourself.

Have a safe and fun summer!

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