Yay, Summer is in full swing at last!
I know of a lot of dogs that spend most of it in the lake – here are some tips to avoid problems in our dock-diving friends:
Lake water can have high levels of tannins from rotting vegetation (tannins are what give that weak-tea colour to the water), as well as irritants such as algae. When your dog is done with the lake for the day, give him a rinse with well water or mains water – he will still be a wet dog, but at least his fur will not be holding a lot of unwanted material right next to his skin.
No, dogs do not need a haircut to keep cool in the summer – they don’t sweat, so their skin is not involved in cooling them off. However, getting rid of a spongy, water-retaining layer of fur in long-coated or double-coated dogs can sure make it easier to rinse them and dry them after a day of wet fun.
“Hot Spots” are surface-layer skin infections, that often occur after the skin has been macerated by staying wet for too long. The puffed-up wet skin cells (think “prune-fingers” after you have been swimming too long) open up gaps between themselves where bacteria can lodge, and then grow and spread.
There are 2 skin regions that I see affected this way most often:
- The Hip – worn out from a day of cavorting in the lake, a pooped pooch flops down to sleep it off. All of the fur dries off, except for the area over one hip: that bit stays down, whether he is sprawled on his side, or sitting up on his chest, and does not get a chance to dry.
- Below a floppy ear – The ear covers the upper neck and the back of the cheek, preventing those sites from drying. This is especially true if the ear flap has caused the hair to mat up right there.
You probably do not want to blow-dry your entire dog, but I would suggest using the dryer on these sites before letting your dog flop down to sleep off his day.
If you don’t have access to a dryer, or your dog won’t tolerate the noise, try working some corn-starch based baby powder into these sites, and then brushing it out.
Don’t Forget the Ears!
Water down the ears is one of the biggest predisposing factors for ear infections.
A dog’s ear canal is shaped like an “L”: it goes down the side of the head, then turns a corner towards the ear drum at the level of the corner of the jaw. The implications of this: water down there is NOT just going to drain out. You need to displace it, with something that is not water-based.
At the end of the day’s lake-play, give the ears a thorough cleaning. And while home remedies are great for a lot of things, for the ears I would suggest having on hand an honest-to-goodness veterinary ear cleaner. Veterinary ear cleaners avoid irritants such as alcohol, and don’t add water to the ear the way diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide do. The goal is to replace the water with something that does not macerate the skin cells of the ear (usually propylene glycol is used), and to keep the ear canal environment on the acidic side so organisms such as bacteria and yeast do not overgrow.
You can read a step-by-step guide to ear cleaning here: http://www.winslowvetmobile.com/doggy-ears-101-now-what-do-i-do