Dog days of summer

Dog days of summer

GCI editor Mike Zawacki offers tips to protect your course canines from the summer heat.

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June 4, 2018
Mike Zawacki
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We had a sweltering start to the summer here in Northeast Ohio. Memorial Day temperatures topped out in the low 90s and coupled with the humidity the “real-feel” was somewhere near the surface of the sun.

But that didn’t keep people from enjoying the outdoors, most of time accompanied by their four-legged friends. I expect the same was true for the nearly three-quarters of superintendents who are responsible for course canines. Primarily in service for pest control, course dogs are often seen enjoying rides around the facility in the superintendent’s UTV or exercising their duties as the course’s goodwill ambassadors. 

But just like your maintenance force manicuring greens and fairways, it doesn’t take much time or exposure under extreme summer conditions to put them into the danger zone for heat exhaustion, stroke and even death.

Dogs are no different and may even be more sensitive to the summer climate. If you want to test this theory, I’d suggest donning a full-length fur coat and walk your facility’s cart path barefoot. The ASPCA.org is a wealth of great information and offers a lot of insight on how to keep your fur buddy healthy and safe. Here are some pertinent tips to consider for summer safety.

First, start off with a trip to the vet for a quick checkup and a clean bill of health. Be sure to include a test for heartworms.

When it’s hot or humid, make sure you dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean water to prevent dehydration.

Don’t overwork them outside when it’s hot. And if it’s really hot, keep them inside the shop or office where it’s air conditioned.

And I don’t need to say this, but never leave Fido in a parked vehicle while you run into a store for “a minute.” It doesn’t take long for temperatures inside the vehicle, even on a warm day, to escalate into the danger zone.

If your pooch shows signs of excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse, then they’re overheating. Get them someplace cool fast.

When the temperature is high, keep your dog off asphalt surfaces. Not only do they risk burned paw pads, but the heat can start cooking their low-to-the-ground bodies very quickly.

And while all dogs are at risk for overheating, keep a close eye on young, overweight or elderly canines, along with those sporting short muzzles or thick or dark-colored coats.

Also, be mindful that it’s very easy to inadvertently expose your fuzzy friend to overspray from insect repellents and sunscreen, both of which can be poisonous. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) if you suspect your animal has ingested or been in contact with a poisonous substance.

Consider crating during the club’s Fourth of July celebration, especially when you consider one in five dogs bolt at the sound of fireworks. 

Finally, food and drink commonly found at barbeques and cook outs can be poisonous to your pooch. Snacks enjoyed by your crew should not be treats for the course canine, no matter how sad, pathetic and starved he or she looks. Be vigilant during lunch breaks and cookouts that a kind-hearted soul isn’t sneaking a grape from the fruit salad or the taste of a double-chocolate brownie (both extremely toxic to dogs) to their four-legged BFF. In fact, enter ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s number (888-426-4435) into your cell phone in case you ever suspect your animal has ingested a potentially poisonous substance.

Mike Zawacki is GCI’s editor.