Vol 8 No 3

Summer 2006

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Features in this Issue:


GRCA NRC Interview

Summertime Safety

GRRI Quilters

Adoption Interviewers

Summer Shopping

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Remembering With Fondness

Letters to GRRI

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Summertime Safety

Archie Urna

The “dog days” of summer are here!  The ancient Romans observed that Sirius (the brightest star in the “dog” constellation Canis Major, and indeed, the brightest star in the night’s sky) began to rise and set with the sun for a few weeks in the middle of the summer. It was easy to conclude that the heat of this bright star augmented the heat of the sun, and thus the sultry weather became associated with the Dog Star. Although we know now that Sirius isn’t radiating heat that reaches us here, it’s still a good time to remember that along with all of the fun of summer comes some special concerns for our four-legged friends.

By now we all know the danger of leaving a dog in a car on a hot day. In a matter of minutes, the interior temperature can rise well above 100 degrees, and dogs can perish quickly. If you’re out and see a dog locked in a car on a hot day, don’t hesitate to call the police: the dog’s life depends on quick action. Remember that dogs have different mechanisms for regulating their temperature than we do; whereas we can perspire and cool our bodies as moisture evaporates from our skin, dogs have only minimal sweat glands on their paw pads and nose, and rely mostly on panting to cool themselves.  As a dog’s body temperature rises by just a few degrees, brain function can quickly be compromised with fatal results.

Michele Masone and Beth Corcoran’s Monty, aka “Swamp Thing"

Goldens come equipped with an insulating system to protect themselves from some of the worst effects of the sun and heat. Whatever hair they haven’t shed all over your furniture remains to hold heat in in cold weather and protect the body from radiant heat on hot days, as well as protecting the skin from burning ultraviolet rays. Intuitively, clipping a long-haired dog might seem like a good idea, but it can be counterproductive and even dangerous for a Golden. Brush them frequently (mats can serve as breeding grounds for skin infections if they get wet in the course of summertime fun) but no haircuts for our hirsute companions!

We can inadvertently challenge an active dog’s ability to stay cool by going along with normal activities no matter the weather. An active breed like a Golden Retriever thrives on play and activity, but we should reserve strenuous activity (running, long games of fetch, etc.) for the cooler hours of dusk and dawn. Most Goldens will enjoy opportunities to splash and swim, but no dog should be left unattended at a pool.  Don’t underestimate the heat generated by a dog exerting himself in warm water; just because s/he’s swimming doesn’t eliminate the risk of overheating. Our dogs should also always have access to fresh cool water, as well as opportunity to relax in shaded or air conditioned areas.

Dusty, Tanner, and Maggie, who hang out with Lyn Skeuse and
Joanie McCarn when on dry land!

On hot days, watch for the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke: excessive panting, drooling, and changes in behavior or level of attentiveness. As heat stroke develops, the dog’s breathing may become increasingly shallow, and s/he may vomit or have sudden diarrhea. The dog’s gums may also become pale or gray, and in advanced cases, the dog may seize. Treatment for heat emergencies should focus on cooling the dog off, ideally with cool (not cold) water and directing a fan on the dog. You may also wrap ice in a towel or bag and apply it to areas where the dog’s blood flows close to the skin, such as the armpits or groin. If you have a rectal thermometer, you may wish to check the dog’s temperature (and make a note to talk to your vet now about what your dog’s baseline temperature is, as “normal” will vary from dog to dog).

If your dog has shown any symptom of heat distress, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Talk to your vet now to understand how they handle emergencies after hours, and if need be, familiarize yourself with the location and directions to an emergency vet clinic near you.

Stay safe! – and enjoy the rest of the summer with your dog.