Seasonal June 2015

Caring for your dog in summer

Summer is hot and humid in Japan, particularly in the city. Although we may be sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned room, that machine is pumping out hot air, adding to the already high temperatures of concrete buildings, asphalt pavements and roads.

So, you are thinking it is time to take your dog for a walk. Before you do that, try removing your shoes and walking bare-footed on the pavement outside. Ouch! Painful isn’t it? But for our dogs it is worse. Not only do they have no shoes, but they are much closer to the ground and thus nearer the rising heat and pollution than we are.

Hot surfaces like asphalt can burn your dog’s paws. And yet it is common to see dogs being walked, some dragged behind bicycles, in the middle of the day. Dogs love walks but please do your walking with them in the early morning or in the evening. Avoid pavements and, if possible, choose cool places with grass and trees, such as parks, for you both to enjoy.

Dogs are covered in hair, which means they cannot sweat except in places where they have no hair, such as their noses and paws. So, unlike humans, who sweat from many glands all over the body, when it is hot or during exercise, dogs mainly keep cool by panting. It is important for your dog to have unlimited access to fresh water, at home and outside.

Sometimes we see what look like miniature lions walking around in summer. This is when owners of long-coated dogs decide to give them a “summer cut”, leaving a mane of hair on the head and a bobble of hair on the tip of the tail. If you take this step to keep your dog cool, you might have to protect his skin with sunscreen lotion. It is best to consult your vet on this matter.

And it goes without saying: never leave your dog in the car, no matter the season. In the summer, temperatures can rise dramatically in minutes. Even if you think it is okay to leave the engine running with the air conditioner on, don’t—engines can cut out. Yet, despite many warnings, every year there are cases of animals, and even babies and toddlers dying in hot cars.

If you are out working all day and your pet is left alone at home, you need to keep at least one room air-conditioned.

Some animals settle easily into this routine but others, especially dogs, suffer from separation-anxiety causing them to self-mutilate or destroy whatever they can. Leaving chewy toys or dog treats stuffed with peanut butter around may help. Leaving on a radio, TV, music or chat programme may also provide a calming atmosphere.

Because dogs are so clever, they can pick up that we are leaving the house through the smallest signals; the rattle of car keys or putting on our coat is a giveaway. Yet, try to make your departure and return low-key. You need to start the training as early as possible. Leave for just a few minutes at a time and then return, gradually extending the time that you are away.

In Japan, the summer season is punctuated by fireworks and thunderstorms that freak out many dogs as they are highly attuned to these noises and vibrations.

Although we can’t prevent the events, we can slowly programme dogs to get used to them. There are several CDs on the market to help dogs overcome these fears. They start with minimal sound that gradually builds in volume to mimic fireworks or thunderstorms.

So, enjoy your summer here in Japan. Keep cool, drink lots of water and make sure your pet is able to keep cool and comfortable, too.

Animal Refuge Kansai: