This is the time of year when we get days and days – sometimes weeks – of dry, hot weather, with temperatures exceeding 100°F during the day, and only cooling off to the mid 80s at night.
When we have to leave the dogs home, I leave them indoors, with the ceiling fans and cooler on. We have an air conditioner in our new home, but we almost always use the evaporative cooler instead. This is a low-tech device, frequently used in super-dry parts of the country, that essentially sucks air through pads of wet wood fibers and blows this moist, cool air into the house; the evaporation of the moisture lowers the air temperature in the house as much as 20 degrees. As hot as this super-dry environment is, I count myself lucky; it’s much less expensive to run an evaporative cooler (essentially a large fan with a small water pump inside) than air conditioning.
One way or the other, though, steps have to be taken to keep the dogs cool; stories abound of dogs being stricken by heat stroke. If they have ample, deep shade and lots of cool water, most healthy dogs can get through it, though debilitated dogs may lose the ability to withstand the extreme temperatures. (Of course, even healthy dogs who are subjected to exercise in this heat, or left without sufficient protection from the heat, can succumb from the heat stress. See WDJ articles “How to Prevent Heat Stroke” and “Heat Stroke in Dogs” for more information.)
My senior dog Otto has great survival techniques for coping with the heat. He finds the shadiest places in the yard, and digs holes under plants that are watered daily by the sprinkler system, planting himself into these holes and laying low. My younger dog mostly pants and scratches at the door to come inside. “Help! It’s hot!”
Last week, we had a third dog to keep cool, my son’s black coonhound, Cole. He’s used to the much more moderate temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area, where a cool fog is pulled over the entire region any time the temperatures in my valley rise to the “wicked hot” level. Cole pretty much insisted that we go find some nice wet water to get into.
I was more than happy to oblige him. Doing so also made my grandson, visiting for a month this summer from Boston, very happy. He’s an active six-year-old boy – is that an oxymoron? – and nothing makes him happier than throwing rocks into water, unless it is throwing sticks and things for dogs to fetch in the water.
I am incredibly lucky; I live in an area that is rich in open spaces where dogs are allowed to be off-leash – and most of the time, it seems like there is almost no one out there enjoying these spaces with me and my dogs. The Feather River flows through my town, and fills both a huge lake upstream and some smaller, shallow man-made lakes downstream of the Oroville Dam, giving us any number of access points where we can enjoy the water all by ourselves.
All the swimming has been helping Woody get enough exercise, which I’ve been trying to limit because of a recent toe injury; he somehow broke a rear toenail on July 4. Of course, this required yet another emergency visit to the vet (I’ve lost track of how many times this dog has been to the ER…more than he’s been to his regular vet, I think), for a local anesthetic enabling the vet to trim away the broken nail, clean and wrap the paw, antibiotics, and pain meds. The red, raw nub of his nail bed, unprotected by hard nail, has been getting progressively – and painfully – worn down by Woody’s incessant activity, and that’s with me trying to keep him as sedentary as I can. (He also holds that paw up when he goes out to onto the dry pasture to potty, and when crossing the gravel driveway.) Swimming once or twice a day seems like the best solution for now, and serves all of our hot-weather needs.
How are you guys getting through the heat of summer with your dogs?