Keep your dog safe, cool as the days warm

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Spring is here, and with it comes warmer weather and new considerations for our dogs.

I have a few dogs that love to ride in the car, so I frequently take one or more with me when I run errands. As fun as this is, it has to stop when temperatures rise. Finding a shady spot and rolling down the windows will not effectively lower the risk of your dog overheating in your vehicle, which can happen quickly. Better to leave your dog at home until cooler weather returns.

Longer days combined with higher temperatures cause dogs to start shedding their winter undercoat. Often the wooly undercoat gets caught in the guard hairs, resulting in matting and tangles, which, if not addressed, can become quite painful for the dog. The matted coat twists and tightens, painfully pulling on the skin, which can cause the dog to scratch and rub. This can cause the skin to ooze and become infected, which attracts flies. To make matters worse, flies will lay their eggs on the irritated skin, and this soon becomes a maggot problem — a real health risk. Fortunately, this can all be avoided with routine and frequent brushing, or regular trips to the groomer.

In addition to having access to fresh water at all times, make sure the water source is in a spot that will be shaded most of the day. And forget about using any of the "automatic water" devices that screw directly onto your hose bib. During the day, water can heat up to scalding temperatures in your pipes and, as a result, will make drinking impossible for the thirsty dog. Daily "pooper patrol" duty will help keep the fly population down in your yard and help prevent the spread of disease.

How did your fencing survive the winter storms and recent winds? Check each fence board and make any necessary repairs before your dog discovers a breach in security.

For those of you with short-muzzled dogs — bulldogs, pugs, bull mastiffs, boxers, etc. — be aware that these breeds simply cannot adequately keep themselves cool outdoors in extreme heat. These dogs need to be indoors during the day, and exercise should occur in the early mornings or evenings.

Finally, keep in mind that longer days and better weather give you greater opportunities to get out and get active with your dog, which is what they really want — more time spent with you.