Once upon a time I promised regular chats about dogs. After all, that is my day job. But I’ve been more than a tad remiss in discussing our four-legged friends, preferring instead to rant and rave about politics etc.
Anyway, the current heatwave is prompting some writing action from me. Walking with the Lead On pack has been a real chore over the last week. Bad enough that I am a ginger, freckled Scot – I can at least slap on the factor duffelcoat to protect my delicate Caledonian skin from the sun.
But the poor mutts are the ones genuinely suffering in the heat. I try to walk where there’s access to water and also to shade so we all get some protection for at least part of the walk.
It’s not always that easy, however, and so it’s safety first while the mercury continues to nudge the late 20s.
Walks are shorter and starting earlier to try and beat the heat. The air conditioning in the van is on full bung to keep everyone cool as we tootle around picking up and dropping off the pooches. And there’s lots and lots of drinking water on hand.
The water is absolutely essential. Dogs can get heatstroke in the same way we humans can and it’s a lot more dangerous for them as their body can dangerously overheat in a matter of minutes and be potentially fatal.
Sadly, animal charities such as the RSPCA have to broadcast the same message every single year: dogs die in hot cars. They have some excellent advice on how to keep your pet safe when the weather is this hot and how to travel safely with a dog in a car.
At home we got a paddling pool for Alfie from the local £ shop and filled it with water. So far he’s using it only as a giant water bowl but at least when he’s out in the garden, we know there’s plenty of water to keep him hydrated.
The bold Alfie has also managed to highlight another big summer issue when walking dogs – stray grass seeds that get into ears and between paws and can cause more than just irritation to the pup.
Alfie had his regular trip to the groomer’s last week to remove the piles of hair that make him look like an explosion in a fur factory after a few weeks. Emily the groomer noticed one of his paws was a bit swollen and so it was off to the vet where they diagnosed an embedded grass seed. It was straight to the operating theatre and a nasty-looking seed about a centimetre long was removed from his back paw.
Aside from behaving like a stoned slacker for about 24 hours after the op, Alfie has completely recovered, even biting off his bandage early – surprise, surprise.
The scariest thing about all of this was that the vet detected a mild heart murmur during the initial examination. We’re assured it’s likely to be nothing and there’s a follow-up appointment this week to examine things more closely. It was a real shock to us but friends with dogs tell us it’s very common and unlikely to be a problem at all. Fingers crossed.
The moral of this tale is be careful when you’re exercising your dogs in hot weather, make sure they always have access to water and always check their paws and ears after a stroll through grass, no matter how short.
Meanwhile, enjoy the sun!