Tiki’s spring safety tips

Given the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, Tiki decided it’s a good time to address the subject of outdoor dog safety. For this week’s blog, he sat down with Good Dog manager and doggie-care expert Michelle Moser for a Q&A session on the topic.

Tiki: I love taking walks on the Monon, but I don’t like my leash … it cramps my style. Why do I have to wear it?

Michelle: Leashes save lives, which is why this is such an important safety issue for dogs and owners. Always using one is the single most loving thing a pet owner can do. Even well trained dogs can instinctively and impulsively dart after potential distractions, so leashes keep you safe from fast cars, hazardous edibles, dangerous situations and even getting lost. (And one lost dog is one too many.) Plus, a leash allows us to pull back and protect you if another dog tries to attack. Every dog should be on a leash when they’re not in a securely enclosed area – and this includes the Good Dog lobby, where there are often lots of doggies and our doors can swing open at any minute.

Tiki: Why do I get so hot when I’m playing outside? And don’t tell me it’s because my stubby legs and excess belly weight.

Michelle: A dog’s average body temperature is between 100.5 and 102, so you’re naturally warmer than us humans and can overheat quickly on long walks, hot black asphalt or with extended time in the sun. Heat exhaustion and stroke are very serious for dogs and can cause permanent brain damage and even death, but owners can easily prevent it by taking walks in the early morning or evening, keeping your dog in the shade as much as possible, and always having plenty water available. If you notice your dog is restless, staggering, or weak, these are the telltale signs of heat exhaustion, as are excessive salivating, vomiting, and a body temperature of 104 or higher.

Tiki: So how do you care for an overheated dog?

Michelle: If you see any of these signs, immediately move the dog to a cool area and place a cool wet towel on their paws and body. Don’t use ice or very cold water because it can restrict blood vessels and make the situation worse. And see a vet as soon as possible if the symptoms don’t subside right away.

Tiki: Is this why you take me on a lot of walks on shaded concrete instead of blacktop asphalt?

Michelle: It’s one reason, yes. I don’t want you to overheat or burn your little paws. But also, walking on rough concrete can actually help file your nails down, which means fewer nail trims for you. And don’t forget how you cry like a baby at the sight of a nail clipper — I try to avoid these dramatic outbursts at all costs.

Tiki: You’ve also told me I can’t be left alone in the car, even though I love my car naps. Why?

Michelle: Cars are even more dangerous than hot black asphalt because interior temperatures increase so rapidly. There is a website, mydogiscool.com, that talks about how quickly a car can essentially turn into an oven for dogs, even on a cool day. This is an important issue for me and lots of other owners … our pups should not be left unattended in cars, regardless of whether the windows are cracked or not.

Tiki: Now that bathing suit season is quickly approaching, I’d like to cultivate a tan. Is that OK?

Michelle: You’re already very cute and most certainly do not need a tan. Actually most people don’t know this, but dogs can get sunburned, especially around the tips of their ears and noses. Dogs that are hairless, shaved, or with short white fur are even more at risk for sun damage. Ironically, some owners will shave down their dogs to keep them cool in the summer, but this inhibits a dog’s ability to deal with temperature change and puts them at high risk for sunburn. Regular brushing and grooming will remove excessive undercoat and help keep your dog cool, but remember not to shave them completely. For the extra cautious owner, you can also buy sunscreen made specifically made for dogs.

Tiki: Sometimes when I’m playing at the dog park, I get bullied because I’m a little guy. Do you have any safety tips for dog park play?

Michelle: I have so many dog park tips that I probably can’t fit them all into one blog. There are lots of online resources, including dogpark.com, that offer tons of information on how to keep your dog safe in a park – and not just from bullies. My first recommendation would be to observe the park for a few minutes before letting your dog in, and always stay vigilant and aware of your dog. Also, the exposure to other dogs only increases the importance of regular vaccines and heartworm/flea medications.

Tiki: Last but not least, I want to tell you that I love you, and thank you for always keeping me safe. Do you have any final tips for my readers?

Michelle: We talked about leashes earlier, but collars, identification tags and micro-chipping are just as important. Even for the most careful and cautious dog owners, accidents happen and dogs can get lost. I want all of our dogs to have the best lives possible, so I encourage owners to always use collars and tags — and if possible, microchip your pet. It’s only $10 to have your dog chipped at Animal Care and Control in Indianapolis. You can call them at 317-327-1397 for more information.

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