DEAR READERS: Climate change deniers cannot dismiss the current heat dome over Western states, nor the escalating incidence of increasingly intense heat waves across the world that put us at risk, along with wild and domesticated animals. Heat stress can be fatal.
I will echo the urgent, ubiquitous warnings not to leave dogs or children in vehicles in hot weather. On a 90-degree day, temperatures inside a car can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes -- and a fatal 130 degrees in 30 minutes. A police dog in Houston recently died when the air conditioning in a squad car turned off unexpectedly.
I watch the news on TV every day and am shocked that so few people seem to be wearing cooling bandannas. Cooling vests and bandannas have helped save farm workers' lives (see study at pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33357122), and similar gear is available for dogs (and should be provided for all working canines). For a homemade solution, simply wrap crushed ice in a bandanna and put it around your dog's neck, then do the same for yourself. This can increase comfort for you both as it cools the blood going to and from the brain and the rest of the body.
I see many dogs being walked, even jogged, alongside runners and bicyclists on hot pavements that could burn their feet. If you must walk your dogs in such conditions, consider outfitting their feet with insulating bootees. Walk on grass or shaded, wooded trails. Sand, like cement pavements, can burn. Dogs can also get sunburn.
While we sweat to keep cool, dogs pant, losing body water in the process. Dogs may be less at risk from kidney damage than humans because we also lose minerals in sweat, which need to be replaced with electrolytes. But to be on the safe side, when going out with your dog in hot weather, always take water with an added pinch of salt and sugar for your dog -- or ideally, a diluted mixture of plain Pedialyte electrolyte solution for both you and your dog.
Dogs compromised by overheating can become disoriented, feverish, pant laboriously, drool, vomit or have seizures. They may develop bright red, gray, purple or bluish gums, indicating dehydration and possible circulatory collapse. Such signs call for emergency veterinary services, and if such are not close by, the immediate application of water over the head, neck, ears, body and paws. Lower the dog's body temperature by wetting them thoroughly with cool water. Do not use ice-cold water because cooling too quickly can be just as dangerous as heat exhaustion. For very small dogs or puppies, use lukewarm water instead of cool. Allow them to dry off beside a small fan.
Dogs with flat faces, like French bulldogs and pugs, are especially susceptible to heat exhaustion because they cannot pant as efficiently. Also at risk are overweight dogs and those with dark-colored fur and/or heart conditions. If air conditioning is not available at home, a fan on the floor -- and a cold floor to lie on -- can help overheated dogs cool down, along with plenty of water to drink.
DEAR DR. FOX: My dog Sami, a Samoyed mix, likes to roll in anything smelly on our walks when I let him off leash. Why does he do this, and how can I stop him? I can't keep him on the leash all the time, since he needs to run. -- M.F., San Francisco
DEAR M.F.: This is a conundrum for many dog owners. From my observations of wolves, other wild canids and domesticated dogs (as per my book "Behavior of Wolves, Dogs and Related Canids"), this behavior is a "self-anointing" with any organic substances that the animal finds attractive. From their facial expressions while rolling and rubbing into such materials, the activity seems to be very enjoyable. There is no evidence for the idea that canids engage in this behavior to mask their own scent before hunting. Rather, when they meet up with pack-mates or other dogs, they get extra attention by being more thoroughly sniffed.
I see some analogy here with people anointing themselves with perfumes. I have been critical of the perfume industry for decades for not using purely botanical ingredients. And the more costly brands use "musk" -- anal gland secretions from caged wild civet cats -- and ambergris secretions from whales. A cruel industry indeed.
Some cats will roll on certain plants, like catnip, to inhale volatile compounds that can be both stimulating and relaxing. In addition to providing a quick "high" for the animal, these compounds may also help repel biting insects.
Some dogs never engage in what I call scent-rolling behavior. Those who do might best be prevented by anointing them before they go outdoors: Use any volatile organic substance, such as essential oil of cedar, or extract of lemon peel for its citronella (which one can prepare by making a spritz from simmered and filtered sliced lemon in water). This is worth a try for dogs who want to roll in anything odoriferous they find outdoors.
PETITION TO BAN 'CYANIDE BOMBS' ON PUBLIC LANDS
On June 29, the Center for Biological Diversity, Predator Defense and scores of other conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to ban the use of M-44 devices, commonly known as "cyanide bombs," on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. These devices -- used by the USDA's Wildlife Services division to kill "unwanted" predators such as coyotes -- are spring-loaded ejectors armed with cyanide powder and baited to attract animals. They injure people and inhumanely kill thousands of animals every year.
Their use persists despite public support for a nationwide ban. Per an article on biologicaldiversity.org: "Federal agents last year reported using M-44s in 10 states: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. The EPA also authorizes state agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas to use M-44s.
"According to Wildlife Services' own data, the program poisoned approximately 6,000 animals in 2022 using M-44s. More than 150 of these animals were killed unintentionally, including dogs and dozens of foxes."
As the mega predator on this planet, the human species, in its war of extermination against other predators, has caused potentially irreparable harm to the environment, the consequences of which we are all suffering today.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)