Now that spring is in full swing, many of us are enjoying warmer days and quite a bit more sunshine. Although this may mean more outside playtime and longer days to enjoy with our pups, it also means that as pet parents we need to be more diligent about protecting our dogs from potential heat injuries. Even in temperate springtime conditions, our dogs are at increased risk of exposure, dehydration, and other warm weather concerns. However, with a little preparation and awareness, we can enjoy the longer days of spring and the sunny summer days to come alongside our pups without issue!
HEATSTROKE – A PRIMARY RISK
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, even a 70° day can pose a risk to your dog, particularly if he or she is playing hard in the sun or (even worse!!) is in a vehicle without proper ventilation. And make no mistake – by “proper ventilation” we mean the car is on and moving with either the windows down or the air conditioning on. Even in the shade, cracking the windows is NOT sufficient. Our dogs are perpetually dressed in fur and a sitting vehicle, even in the shade, can increase in temperature exponentially and quickly. There is never a good reason to leave your pup in the car, especially when there are so many options to help make your day more dog friendly. For example, you can visit stores and restaurants where your dog is welcomed inside, too, or if you have to you can leave your dog at home rather than planning to leave him in the car. It’s never worth it. Heatstroke and dehydration sneak up quickly and the effects can be irreversible, even if you do catch issues before they are lethal. If you’re outside for playtime or a walk or hike, make sure your pup is hydrated and taking breaks to cool off. And if you’re driving in a vehicle, consider running the air or keeping the windows open a little more than you may feel is necessary. Your canine best friend is likely going to have more layers on than you!
POISONS AND PESTS
Depending on where you are at, the growing season is likely in full swing. In addition to beautiful flowers, trees with increasing foliage, and plenty of green grass, this may also mean more use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Your pet may come across these hazards in your yard or garage or even while out for walks. Similar to heat concerns, the key to prevention of injury to your pet is awareness. Know where she is at all times, and practice diligence in keeping chemicals out of reach. Even seemingly harmless summer backyard staples like citronella candles may pose a risk to your pet, so when in doubt do a little research; better yet, just keep unusual items only within human reach. Better safe than sorry!
Warmer weather also typically means an uptick in the pest population, so preventative measures can help protect her in that area as well. Visit your local vet and learn about your region’s risk factors, and if necessary, take the steps to prevent any issues. For example, heartworm may be a problem in your area, in which case your vet will likely recommend a quick test and then regular administration of a heartworm preventative. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other pests may also pose a risk, and again your vet will have various options available for prevention and treatment of any issues. The longer, warmer spring and summer days are a great opportunity to spend time with our dogs, and as long as we keep a few things in mind and stay aware of the risks warm weather brings, we can truly savor those beautiful days at the park or beach!
Images courtesy the author.
We’ve previously discussed taking our dogs along to run errands, out to eat, and even to shop with us in addition to the more standard destinations like the beach and park. But there is so much more to our day and to our lifestyles! For those pet parents with human children, too, there are sports practices and sporting events, and for pet-exclusive pet parents, there are other recreational activities, such as personal sports activities and even more mundane things like getting chores done around the house and taking care of vehicle maintenance and the like. Once we take into account being able to bring our pups along for activities such as these, it seems as though the list of places our dogs CAN’T go may actually even be shorter!
ENJOYING THE SPORTS
Many of us take part in regular sports and recreation activities, whether as an individual or in a secondary role, such as accompanying a significant other or child to practice. Aside from work and school, these activities may take up a significant chunk of your free time! For the Rat City Rollergirls based in Seattle, Washington, many skaters and coaches spend at least two nights and one weekend day at their practice and competition facilities. Many of them are also pet parents and full time employees and/or students, so making sure their recreational activity of choice is dog friendly is a way for them to ensure they can get their favorite activity in as well as their quality time with their dog. The league allows dogs in all areas of their practice facility, and it’s not uncommon to see several dogs at league meetings and events. In fact, non-skating league members expect to visit with and maybe even help out with at least one pup at scrimmage night while their mom or dad is busy! Overall, the situation is a win-win – skaters are motivated to ensure their dogs are well-trained and used to being in different situations so they can bring them along, and the practice facility environment further allows dogs of the league members exposure to new people and sounds and gives them the chance to get lots of welcome attention.
AND ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS, TOO
Often the problem with fitting quality time in with our pups alongside our daily obligations comes down to simply getting too busy and forgetting that with a little adjusting, we can include them in many of our more mundane, required activities. When we need to take a child to ballet or take the car in for an oil change, it may be reflexive to assume that our dog or dogs cannot come along because of the nature of the facility. But that simply is not true! For example, if you have to head out to the local dealership and they have a no dogs lobby policy, it may be as simple as leaving your cell number with the receptionist and then you’ll be free to go for a walk or go enjoy some playtime with your pup in the nearby area. You may even be able to find a great park within walking distance! And in the case of a sports or music lesson – same idea. If you and your pup can’t stay inside, check in and go get some fresh air within the time period you’d typically just be waiting. The benefits of finding these extra pockets of time may not be limited to more exercise and interaction for you and your dog; in fact, a 2006 study indicated that dog owners are actually happier people and tend to laugh more than non-dog owners. Health and wellness are important building blocks for overall quality of life, and “frequent spontaneous laughter” sounds quite appealing in the face of all of life’s responsibilities and challenges! So perhaps you can take another look at your calendar, and find even more time to fit in the companionship and togetherness that drove you to having a dog in the first place! Get out there and explore, and most importantly have a great time together.
Images courtesy David Jaewon Oh (www.upsetspecialistphoto.com) and Astrid Suchy-Dicey
At all ages, just as in humans, the ideal for our dogs is to eat a balanced, whole foods based diet that in turn provides the nutrients needed for a healthy, active lifestyle. There are countless varieties of dog food on the market, including blends especially for different sizes and ages of breeds; in fact, there are even special varieties for dogs with food sensitivities or other unique needs (such as joint problems or grain sensitivity). Some pet parents even opt to go with an actual whole foods diet, prepping fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats for their dogs, or alternatively going with a “raw” diet – one that consists of mostly raw meats. With all of these options available, is there really a need for supplements for our pups? As a disclaimer, this is not being written by a vet, but rather by a pet parent curious about supplement options. So of course, when it comes to options specific to your dog, check with your vet first!
DO DOGS EVEN NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
The consensus seems to be that with well-made commercially prepared foods, the delicate balance of nutrients has been tested and tested again prior to mass production, so if you are feeding your dog a quality food appropriate to his age, size, and medical history, you should be okay without any supplementation. However, if you are feeding your dog a homemade diet you may want to check in with your vet and see if there are any nutrients that aren’t being included in what your dog eats on a daily basis. Additionally, regardless of whether your dog’s food is store bought or homemade, there may be negative consequences if your dog is getting too much of a vitamin or mineral as a result of additional supplementation, and some supplements designed for humans are not recommended for dogs in any quantity.
COMMON TYPES OF SUPPLEMENTS
For aging dogs or larger breeds that may have joint problems at a younger age, glucosamine-chondroitin is a commonly recommended supplement. According to WebMD, glucosamine-chondroitin has been shown to possibly help alleviate the pain and reduced mobility associated with osteoarthritis in dogs, and your vet may recommend it for your dog. Another common category of supplements recommended for dogs are fatty acids or fish oil, usually used to reduce inflammation and/or increase coat shine. Again, it is specific to each dog, and given the expensive nature of many supplements, you’ll definitely want to check with your vet and see if such supplementation is recommended for your dog. Antioxidant supplements may also be recommended for dogs to decrease inflammation, but again – follow the golden rule of pet parenting, check with your vet! You may save yourself some money avoiding unnecessary supplements, and at the more extreme end of the spectrum, you may save your dog unnecessary negative health consequences from administering supplements that she doesn’t need or that aren’t safe for her!
Images courtesy and Yesudeep Mangalapilly and Ken Lo
As it is with any unfortunate event, the news has been saturated with updates on the landslide situation in Oso, Washington. In the midst of the massive recovery efforts, silent four-legged volunteers have been steadily braving the elements and doing their part. Conditions have been cold, muddy, and generally quite difficult, but nonetheless rescue dogs have been working to help locate victims. Both in domestic natural disasters and even in international war efforts, working dogs often play vital roles in operational activities, working loyally and tirelessly next to their handlers. In fact, according to the National Association for Search and Rescue, teams including working dogs are available to all emergency and government agencies at any time, often at no cost to the requesting agency. And the scope of dogs’ contributions to society goes well beyond search and rescue; in fact, there are working dogs trained to help with a variety of medical conditions and even just to provide a welcome presence during difficult situations.
While Search and Rescue dogs are busily working to locate victims, therapy dogs are also often on scene providing comfort to both those impacted by the event as well as those who have volunteered, including medics, work crews, and other first responders that may be on-site. As of 2012, Therapy Dogs International had almost 25,000 registered dog/volunteer handler teams, and they list their mission statement as being “a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever else therapy dogs are needed”. The “wherever else” piece is a crucial element – therapy dogs provide assistance not only in extreme situations such as Ground Zero, but also in smaller scope situations such as comforting children learning to read, provide companionship in hospices and VA hospitals, and even being a welcome face for assisted living residents.
As mentioned above, working dogs can also provide a variety of medical assistance services, ranging from helping disabled persons with mobility to monitoring their human companions for Type I Diabetes-related signs of low blood sugar. Dogs' training can be extensive and tailored specifically to the medical needs of their companions, and they provide help in a way that is so flexible and yet so specific that their role in our lives is literally irreplaceable. Search and Rescue Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Assistance Dogs can all come from a variety of breeds, and they can range from purebred, registered dogs to shelter or rescue pups. The key lies in their general disposition coupled with excellent training, and the intelligent, highly aware nature of dogs makes them excellent candidates for providing a variety of services for their human companions. They work quietly and steadily in law enforcement, military operations, search and rescue efforts, hospitals, and even in private homes, all for the simple reward of a pat on the head or perhaps a treat. So the next time you hear the phrase “man’s best friend”, really take stock of what that means! We may provide care and shelter for them, but where would we be without our canine helpers and companions? They can physically sense what we cannot, they can provide a quiet audience that doesn’t judge while a young child learns to read, and they can provide comfort to us when we are in situations that just don’t make any sense otherwise.
Images courtesy Rick Wilking (Reuters) and Army Medicine