Grooming and sun protection

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Effects of temperature on your dog

The summer brings us endless days of sunshine and soaring temperatures. Well maybe not, but even on warm, humid days it’s important that people are aware of the effects that the temperature can have on their dogs.

When we are hot we perspire in order to expel excess heat. Our furry friends, however, only perspire around their paws, so to cool down, they pant. This enables them to take air through their nasal passages, picking up excess heat from the body, which is then expelled through the mouth. The ability to do this is severely affected in high humidity or when the dog is confined, for example in a car. Even on a mild day, with the windows open, the temperature inside can reach 120 Fahrenheit (about 49 degress celsius) in less than 30 minutes.

Heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heatstroke and become an emergency situation. Be aware of the signs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Dog becomes anxious
  • Lack of response to commands
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High fever
  • Possibly vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Collapse

If you think your dog has heatstroke you must act quickly and calmly. If possible, move the dog to a cool, shaded area. If the dog is having difficulty breathing, ensure its airways are clear. The dog’s temperature needs to be brought down to normal as quickly as possible. This can be done by applying towels soaked in cool water to the dog, ensuring that they cover the hairless areas (groin and feet) as these areas are sensitive to heat and will quickly help reduce the dog’s temperature. Alternatively, you can hose the dog down with cool water. If your dog is small enough, move them to a tub of cool water. Once your dog is stabilised, seek veterinary advice immediately.

Dogs are not aware of the dangers the heat can bring and need you to keep them safe.

Tips for the summer weather

  • Supervise all exercise. Dogs will run until they drop so it’s important to use your judgement to control the exercise. On very warm days, wait until the evening when it’s cooler to go for a stroll
  • Overweight dogs are inclined to suffer more in the warm weather, so ensure your dog stays trim
  • Feed them in the evening when the temperature has dropped. The dog’s appetite can be affected in hot weather
  • Ensure your dog is well groomed to remove the shed hair, allowing the skin to breathe and trapping less heat in the coat
  • Always have fresh water available - take a supply with you if you go out
  • NEVER leave a dog in the car, even on a warm day. Leave them at home and take them for a stroll when you get back

Best in show

Apart from having the smartest looking dog in town, grooming your dog regularly also provides other benefits to both dog and handler. Firstly, it develops a bond and enhances the relationship between you and your dog. It keeps the coat healthy and hygienic and promotes new growth. It also gives you an opportunity to check your dog for any abnormalities that may otherwise be missed. And most importantly it means less hair on the carpet and your new trousers!

There are many grooming aids on the market. However, for most breeds a comb, bristle brush and chamois leather will be sufficient.

When choosing an area to groom your dog, ensure it is non-slip, dry and stable - a place where you can keep the dog under control and where you will feel comfortable and secure. If grooming a young dog, keep the sessions short and fun so the dog considers it a pleasurable experience and doesn’t get bored.

The grooming sequence is as follows:

  • Massage the dog by running your fingers through the dog’s coat against the lay of the coat, all over the body avoiding the face and tail
  • Then take a bristle brush and again brush against the lay of the coat avoiding the face and tail
  • Using the comb next, this time comb with the lay of the coat, once again avoiding the face. Be careful not to apply too much pressure around the ears abdomen and legs, as they are sensitive areas
  • Then using the bristle brush again, brush with the lay of the coat, all over the body
  • To finish, gently wipe the dog over with a damp chamois, starting at the face and continuing over the rest of the dog’s body to remove any remaining hair and to give a glossy sheen
  • It is important to give the dog plenty of verbal and physical praise throughout the grooming session.
  • Some breeds have long feathered areas on the legs, abdomen and tail and these may need extra attention. Sometimes these long coated breeds may benefit from a trim or tidy around their feathers and feet. However, this is best left to someone qualified as a ‘little trim’ can so easily turn into a short back and sides!

So the next step – a bath!

Here are a few tips on bathing:

  • Dogs do not need bathing routinely unless it has been advised by a veterinary surgeon as bathing on a regular basis can cause the coat to dry out
  • Only ever use a shampoo that is designed for dogs as canine skin has a different pH balance to human skin
  • Before bathing ensure everything is ready and at hand. If possible it is safer that there are two people able to bath the dog in order to lift it in and out of the bath and keep it under control. It may love wallowing in dirty ditch water but being bathed in clean warm water is a different matter
  • Always test the water temperature beforehand. Bring the dog to the bath - a shower spray makes bathing easier and rinsing faster and more thorough. Place a non slip mat on the floor of the bath and remove any bottles etc. from around the bath area to avoid them being knocked or broken. Make sure you have checked the shampoo instructions and wear gloves and other protective clothing if advised. Always dilute the shampoo as per instructions before applying to the dog’s coat – this will ensure it is applied evenly over the dog and is diluted correctly
  • Keeping the dog under control wet his coat thoroughly. Then, avoiding his eyes and ears, apply the shampoo and work into a lather. Leave the shampoo on the dog’s coat for the required length of time stated in the instructions before rinsing thoroughly. Squeeze the dog’s coat gently to eliminate the excess water before towel drying. It is important to keep the dog in a warm, draught free environment until he is dry. Meanwhile, you can go and clean up the bathroom!

And remember, his idea of a sweet smell probably isn’t the same as yours, so keep an eye on him when you take them free running after a bath!