Dog Days of Summer
This is an expression most of us know as describing the hottest weeks of the summer. It originated from the Romans who believed the brightest star in the sky, Sirius or “The Dog Star,” was responsible for the excessively warm days. It was customary for them to sacrifice a brown dog once a year to appease the rage of Sirius.
Rather than sacrifice a canine (the Romans were actually quite fond of their dogs), summer is a great reminder of a time to honor our loyal companion. While we humans flock to the outdoors during these months, dogs also become more active and energized with the warm weather and longer days. Here are a few helpful dog facts and suggestions for our favorite season.
1. Walking your dog is one of the best things in the world. I’m not just saying that it benefits your pooch. It also benefits YOU. Emotionally, psychologically and physically you (and your dog) get a dose of good stuff. I’ve had clients shed pounds when they committed to walking their dog just three times a week for the summer. And it’s amazing how a stroll on a sunset afternoon with your dog can completely reverse a bad day. If you have an aversion to walking your dog because of tugging, pulling or jumping (which is not relaxing) start easy. Walk around your block or front yard; don’t let poor behavior stop you.
2. Medical tips on heat: Dogs “perspire” and cool themselves by panting. The water on their tongue acts as a big evaporative cooler, just like AC unit. Without fresh water present on hot days the “machine” can shut down. Secondly, keep in mind that leaving them in a car with the windows up can cause the temperature inside to skyrocket to over 180 degrees. This becomes dangerous quickly so take step to prevent this. Lastly, it’s best to avoid walking or running your dog during the hottest time of the day. The pavement (especially asphalt) can burn their sensitive pads and breeds with “smashed” faces, known medically as brachycephalic (Bulldog, Boxer, Pug etc.), have a difficult time exercising in the heat due to a diminished ability to cool their bodies.
3. Time for a new puppy or dog? This is the best time of the year to acquire a new family member. The nice weather makes it easy to get outside and work on training. I’m a big proponent of integrating your dog into the house, i.e. sleeping inside at night, but if it’s not possible then you won’t have to worry about cold nights while things are getting situated. If you go the puppy route, you will certainly need more time. They need a watchful eye on them to deter bad habits such as barking, digging and chewing, which can easily take hold. Another summer bonus is the kids are out of school and can devote energy to take care of the little guy. Challenge them with a training task they need to complete each week or a daily To Do Checklist of walking, cleaning and feeding. Make an effort at least a couple times this summer to pack up the family and take little trips to the beach or hiking with your new pet. It will make for some of the most memorable moments you’ll ever have. Oh, and don’t forget about your local shelter when you’re ready to look. The most worthy await!
Dr. Kwane Stewart, DVM graduated from Colorado State in 1997. He practiced small animal medicine in Southern California before becoming a shelter vet two years ago. He's since felt a rebirth and passionately pursues to reform our country's animal welfare system. He lives with his son, his cat, "Sushi", and his Doberman, "Diesel" in Modesto, California.
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