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Dog Days of Summer

Kathleen Godfrey

Dog Days of Summer as featured in The First Coast Register: A First Coast Summer 2015 Edition

        The long, sun-drenched days of summer in Northeast Florida mean adventure and outdoor playtime for many dogs and their human counterparts. Northeast Florida has many state parks, trails, beaches and dog friendly restaurants to enjoy. It is important to keep your canine companion’s comfort and safety in mind when venturing outdoors during the hot summer months.

         It is no great secret that the Florida summer sun is intense for humans, but it can be even more so for dogs. Think about wearing a sweatshirt on a hot midsummer day to get an idea of what it must be like for a dog. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke just like humans. It is important to take precautions to keep them safe and healthy by avoiding the hot midday hours, providing them with shade and fresh water, not leaving them in a hot car, and avoiding intense exercise in direct sunlight during peak hours (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.).

Dogs can become overheated quite quickly in the Florida sun, so educate yourself about what’s safe for them. Darker dogs, overweight dogs, senior dogs, and dogs with heavier coats may overheat more quickly than other dogs. Carry fresh water, know your dog’s limits, and know the signs of heat stroke.

If the pavement or sand it too hot for your feet, it is too hot for your dog’s paws! Think about the discomfort of walking barefoot over hot sand or asphalt… our four legged friends are not immune to this pain. Use your best judgement about when and where to walk or exercise your dog.

I once saw a man yelling at his puppy to sit down and stay still on blistering hot pavement while he attempted to clean up after it. The young pup’s feet were clearly being burned by the hot pavement. I politely said, “Sir, the pavement is extremely hot and is burning your puppy’s feet - making him squirm.” The man became angry and yelled at me, then carried on fussing at his puppy. I’ve always felt sorry for that puppy and all the other animals that suffer due to humans not being more attuned to their needs. The bottom line is that as a dog owner, you are responsible for their safety and comfort!

The hot summer months are also a breeding ground for pests. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos can bring about many problems for pets. Fleas and ticks can cause discomfort, excessive itching or biting that can lead to hot spots and skin infections among other things. Mosquitos put them at risk for heartworms, so it is important to find a method of prevention that works for your dog. There are many options on the market to choose from.

Aside from preventatives, I personally love a concoction of apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, witch hazel, and lavender or rosemary oil to help keep the pests at bay. I use this for my dogs year round as well as for myself. It is eco-friendly and contains no questionable ingredients and costs less than traditional repellants.

Many trails in Northeast Florida provide shade that helps to keep dogs cooler, but trails have their own caveats as well. Aside from ticks and mosquitos, many other creatures call Northeast Florida home. Northeast Florida is full of potentially dangerous wildlife from poisonous snakes, bears, raccoons, and hogs as well as other critters.

 

Do a little research before hitting the trails; call ahead and ask a park ranger if the area is known for potentially dangerous wildlife. For example, they should be able to tell you if the area is known for pygmy rattlesnakes or black bears. It is important to be aware and take proper precautions to keep your dog(s) safe.