This article has been republished for exclusive use by The Grey Muzzle Organization with the permission of original author, Devin Morrissey.
We all wish that our animals could withstand the sun-filled days of summer the way they did when they were young. The reality of them aging is the same as for ourselves. They become more vulnerable to the heat, the sun, and don’t recover as quickly as they once did.
Beat the heat
Heat stroke is the number one issue that you will likely run into in the summer with your senior dog. They have less of an ability to naturally cool themselves as they age, so they enlist your help to do so. Attempt to find shade everywhere you take them outdoors, whether on a hike or at a park. Avoid open, sun-beaten trails and opt for walks along creeks and streams that have plentiful canopy cover. Even if you don’t live in a particularly hot area, it can be very difficult for your pet to acclimate when you travel to places that do. If you know you will be traveling to a warmer climate, consider investing in a cooling vest or ways to keep them wet throughout the day to ensure they stay cool.
Just like humans, our animals need adequate hydration, especially in the summertime. If you plan on being outside for the day, carry enough water for both you and your pet. Beware, older dogs can sometimes over hydrate after overheating and when left inside will not be able to control their bladder. Giving them access to the outdoors 15 minutes after a long drink will ensure that you don’t return to a puddle of urine in your home. Rather than one big helping of water after a long hot walk, pack along their own water bottle and offer them drinks along the way.
As dogs age, their pads become more prone to tears and cuts. The combination of abrasion and the heat of summer sidewalks and trails can leave your pal limping. To prevent dry, cracked paws, begin applying a thick layer of paw salve on their pads in the springtime to help build up moisture and thickness. Make sure it is pet friendly, as they will instinctively want to lick anything that smells or tastes good from their feet. The same salve can help to alleviate any pain and speed the recovery time in the event they do split a pad.
One rule of thumb to go by before starting your day’s adventure is to hold the back of your hand for 30 seconds to a ground surface that has been exposed to the sun. If you cannot do so comfortably and it is too hot, it is likely too hot for your animal as well. Consider heading to a grassy park instead of a hike that day.
Dogs of any age love to stick their noses in dark holes and smell the underside of rocks — the exact same places that snakes like to hang out. Dogs will be dogs and there is little that we can do, besides keeping them on a very short leash. There are snake aversion classes that you take your dog to and see if you can teach your old dog some new tricks. You can also attempt to do it on your own by bringing along a baby rattle with you on your next hike and the when your dog goes to put their nose in a hole, shake the rattle and scold them with a firm “no.” The hope is that they will associate the sound of a rattle with danger.
There is also a venomous snake vaccine that your vet can administer that will delay the reactions of a venomous snake bite. However, the vaccine will not fully protect them from the poison of snake bite. In the event that they are struck by a snake, take them to the nearest vet hospital as quickly as possible.
Stings and Bites
The summertime is primetime for insects to thrive. Consider giving your senior pet flea and tick prevention medicine and stay on top of the treatments. The effects of a bites and stings will spread faster and can be more impactful on an older animal than their younger counterparts. Some may even cause temporary paralysis of the hind legs. Brush up on your first aid and pack along a wilderness first aid kit for you and your furry pal. You can use the same hydrocortisone that you would use on yourself and administer children’s allergy medicine to treat any minor reactions to insect stings and bites. If there is an open wound, clean the wound and use second skin to seal the wound.
Ensure that you and your ol’ furry pal enjoy the great outdoors this summer but be wise. Look for tensions of stress or discomfort to keep your pet safe and comfortable. This may mean having to cut your activities short but it is always better to be safe than sorry!