Pets and the Oklahoma Summer
Karen Dugan Holman B.S.. B.S.E.,M.S
Will Rogers, Oklahoma’s favorite son and humorist, joked that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change. Living in Broken Arrow, we know that we may zip through 2 or 3 seasons in a single day! Oklahomans are aware that we are blessed not only with a variety of weather events, but we get them in extremes. For most of us, our weather is a source of excitement, entertainment and has instilled in us a tough resilience. But to our pets, it is concerning and can come with serious consequences. With summer upon us bringing enough heat and humidity to fry an egg on the concrete, I’d like to address ways to ensure the safety and good health of your pets.
Never, EVER, leave your pets in a parked car. Not for one minute. On an average temperature day, the temperature in a vehicle can rapidly rise to deadly levels. On a 70°F day (cool for an Oklahoma early summer day), the temperature in your car can climb to over 100 °F in less than 20 minutes. In 30 minutes, it can reach to over 110°F. These temperatures may lead to irreversible organ damage and death. Cracking the windows is not an effective way to keep your dog cool in the car. Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs are panting, dehydration, excessive drooling, reddened gums and rapid heart rate. If you see a dog locked in a car and in distress, act quickly and call 911. Loving your dog means leaving them at home under a fan.
Living in Broken Arrow, citizens understand the concept “heat index”. This is what the temperature actually feels like to us, and our animals. The heat index factors in the ambient temperature and the humidity in the air. Dogs are sensitive to the heat index, just as people are. Dogs do not perspire like humans do, which helps us to control our body temperature. When the humidity is high, it is increasingly difficult for a dogs body to cool and their body temperature may rise to dangerous levels. A dog’s temperature should not be allowed to get over 104°F.
Exercising your pet is important for their physical and behavioral health. But be diligent to walk or jog with your dog early in the morning or late in the evening. Adjust the intensity and duration of the exercise in accordance to your pet’s age, health and the temperature. Monitor their response to your activity. Carry water for you and your pet. Morning walks are a better choice as the temperature of the asphalt and concrete surfaces may not have cooled to a safe level in the evenings. A dog’s pads can be severely burned, blistered and damaged on the hot sidewalks and streets. Try to walk them in the grass if possible. Never walk them across hot parking lots. Dogs can be stoic and may not show visible signs of pain until the damage to their pads is done. After all, if we can fry an egg on these surfaces, just imagine what it can do to your pet’s sensitive paws. Asphalt temperatures on a 77°F day can reach 125°F. An egg can fry in 5 minutes on a 131°F surface! Skin destruction can occur on your dog’s pads in 60 seconds.
Keep your pets inside. If it is too hot and uncomfortable for you, then it is too hot and uncomfortable for your pets. If they must stay outside part of the day, make sure they have plenty of shade and clean water. Dark colored dogs absorb more of the suns rays, leading to unsafe body temperatures. Light colored dogs can get sunburned, just as humans do. The breed of dog can affect their ability to tolerate the heat. Pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers and Bulldogs are less tolerant of the heat. Older dogs, dogs with health issues and puppies can be more susceptible to the heat. A nice swim or a cool soaking with a hose or sprinkler can be great techniques to cool off your pet. Offer frozen dog treats (recipe below) and turn on a fan to help them cool off. Provide plenty of fresh water. Water bowls inside and out should be cleaned each day to prevent contamination with mold and bacteria. Outside, water bowls are a breeding ground for mosquitos. Your pets are relying on you to protect them, keep them comfortable and healthy, no matter what the Oklahoma weather might bring.
Shaving your dogs can be detrimental to some breeds. A dog’s fur is often their protection against the summer heat. Shaving them can also put them at risk for sunburn. Grooming is always important, especially in the summer. Pets can pick up ticks and fleas while outside. Flea and tick prevention is important and protects your pets from further risk of illness. There are several effective, preventative flea and tick treatments, such as topical applications, chewable medicated treats and collars lasting one month. Keeping your grass mowed can also help limit flea and tick infestation.
Remember that your dog is your companion and desires to spend time with you, wherever that may be. However, during the Oklahoma summer, it is safer for your dog to stay indoors with a cool fan than to be left in your car while you run errands. Will Rogers penned, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” Dogs surround us with unconditional love and will forgive you when you leave them at home, on a warm Oklahoma day.
Don’t forget to help control the Broken Arrow pet population, SPAY and NEUTER your pets. It is the right thing to do for Broken Arrow.
Frozen Peanut Butter Dogsicles: My dogs love peanut butter, so I whip these easy treats up and have them ready in the freezer. You can also stuff the mixture in food toys, like a KONG and pop them in the freezer. Give them a stuffed, frozen KONG when you leave the house. It will keep them busy until you return. Yummy and cool!
*1 cup peanut butter, preferably unsalted and unsweetened (Check your peanut butter’s ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol. Xylitol is toxic to dogs.)
*Half a ripe banana, mashed
*Water as needed (just to help it stick together & make a ball)
In a small mixing bowl, combine peanut butter with a little water or half a mashed banana.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper, or use Kong-style rubber toys that have a cavity you can fill.
Spoon the mixture onto the tray just like you would cookie dough, or stuff it into the toys. Freeze the tray or toys for several hours or overnight. Remove the treats and store in freezer bags. I have multiple dogs, so I double (or triple) this recipe. I use my ripest bananas.