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A dog’s fur helps to protect him from the sun’s rays, but dogs with light-colored or thin coats are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Protect them with an application of dog-safe sunscreen, either a product made specifically for dogs or a human formulation made without PABA or zinc oxide.
When applying sunscreen, be sure you get the face and ears (being careful not to get it in his eyes), as well as the belly if your dog likes to sunbathe on his back. And if you're going to be outside all day, reapply frequently. The rule for people is every two hours, and that's about right for pets, too.
Plenty of shade and cool water are also important to help prevent heatstroke. The dogs at greatest risk include those with short snouts, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers, as well as dogs who are overweight or have pre-existing respiratory problems. But any dog can be affected if he is too active in the heat of the day. Be sure your dog has a shady place to rest during daytime outings. And when temperatures are extreme, your dog should stay comfortably indoors.
Did you know that one of the most common problems seen by veterinarians who practice near the ocean is dogs who eat too much sand? They aren’t chowing down on it, but they can ingest it when they’re playing fetch and repeatedly picking up a tennis ball or flying disc from the beach. If they take in too much, it can cause a serious intestinal obstruction. To reduce the risk, play on hard-packed sand.
Your dog can also wind up with a face full of sand, and if it gets in his eyes, it can hurt. Relieve the pain with an eye rinse from the drugstore. If you notice squinting or redness, head to the vet to make sure the sand hasn't scratched your dog's cornea. If you'll be spending a lot of time at the beach, or if this is a common problem for your dog, think about getting him a pair of dog goggles to protect his peepers.
While your dog is frolicking in the sand, pay attention to what he finds on the beach. It's not unheard of for them to run across marijuana, syringes or used condoms (yuck!). You also want to make sure they don't disturb the nests of any shorebirds or turtles.
Whether you and your dog spend time at the lake, river, ocean or simply your backyard pool, you’ll want to take some precautions to help prevent diarrhea, skin problems, toxic algae reactions and ear infections.
Diarrhea? Yep. A dog who takes in a lot of salt water while playing in the ocean can have a reaction that will be unpleasant for him and for you. Think pipe-stream diarrhea out the back end, vomiting out the front end — or both.
At the lake, check the water first to make sure it doesn’t look or smell swampy. If it looks like pea soup or has a sheen like a paint slick on the surface, the cause may be a blue-green algae bloom. If your dog drinks the water or gets it on his fur, it can cause nausea, skin irritation or, more seriously, convulsions and death.
Always give your dog a freshwater rinse after he’s been swimming in salt water or in a chlorinated pool to help prevent the chemicals and salt from drying out his fur. Then towel him off thoroughly. That’s really important if he has wrinkly skin or a jowly face — you don’t want a mildewed dog. Moisture in the skin, especially in the folds, can cause hot spots or skin infections.
Finally, keep those ears dry! After your dog goes swimming, apply an ear cleaner with a drying agent, massage the ear to get it in there good and then let the dog shake to remove any water, wax or debris that might have collected.
Now you’re better prepared for the dog days of summer.
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