Summer safety tips for seniors

Exercise and senior dogs

The dog days of summer can be uncomfortable enough for us humans. But imagine how your poor dog feels. With normal body temperatures that run warmer than ours, and a built-in fur coat, December can be downright unbearable for our senior canine companions.

Using common sense can go a long way to keeping your dog cool and comfortable. For example, be sure to provide plenty of fresh water. You should also save exercise sessions for early morning or wait until the sun goes down. Here are a few other extra precautions to keep in mind:

  • Groom him for summer. Shorter summer clips are fine, but resist the urge to give your dog a buzz cut. A dog's fur is part of his natural insulation system that keeps warm air in during winter and hot air out during summer. Also, shaving your dog's coat too short can put him at risk for sunburn.
  • Show him the shade. If your dog lives outside or spends a lot of time there, teach him to do a "down/stay" in a cool spot. It will also stop him from digging under bushes.
  • Keep his bed cool. Remove bedding from your dog's crate or bed. He'll be more comfortable resting on the cooler bottom, rather than on blankets or fleece.
  • Think inside the house. Keep your dog indoors when you go out for more than an hour. If possible, restrict him to rooms with either air conditioning or a fan.
  • Put a lid on it. This is the time of year when dogs are tempted to drink the cold water from toilet bowls. So keep the lid down and try to avoid chemical cleaners and fresheners that stay in the bowl.
  • Check the ground during walks. Blacktop in particular can get scorching hot for your dog's pads. Touch the surface yourself—if it's too hot for you, it's probably too hot for your dog.
  • Give your dog space. Dogs, like people, can get grumpy when it's hot. Remind young children that their hugs may not be appreciated on stifling days.
  • Hose him down. Try a gentle spray of cool water—though keep in mind it may take you a few tries before your pooch enjoys the experience. Once he gets used to it, he'll feel happy and refreshed.
  • Watch out for symptoms of heat stress or stroke. Panting heavily, salivating, or foaming may be the first signs of a heat-related problem. Get your dog to a cool location, provide small drinks of cold water, and if he doesn't improve within a few minutes, contact your veterinarian right away.

By taking a few steps to ensure your senior dog's safety and comfort, he too can enjoy the "dog days of summer."

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