By Colleen Hayes, Adam Kauder and Brandon Shulleeta
Peeber, a spunky 5-month-old puppy, happily played fetch during her usual swim at Richmond’s Texas Beach, but this time her owner was particularly cautious.
“We try to get out here early to avoid the heat, with her being a puppy and all,” Brian Ragland said.
Ragland, 38, is not alone in worrying about his canine companion this summer.
The temperatures in the city of Richmond this summer have been as high as 102, with the heat index climbing to 115. This heat is more than a mere discomfort; sweltering temperatures can cause heat exhaustion in pets that are not properly cared for. Canine heat exhaustion can lead to difficulty breathing, seizures and heat strokes, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Tabitha Hanes, director of communications for the Richmond SPCA, cautions dog owners to utilize certain practices to keep their pets healthy and happy during the heat.
“At the SPCA we make literature available onour website and blog that focuses on protecting animals from heat,” she said. “While the temperatures have been rising, it’s especially important to keep watch on dogs, and keep walks a little bit shorter. Always make sure they have access to cool, clean water, and that goes for year-round care as well.”
Didi Tremblay, owner of popular pet accessory shop Dogma, spoke about the new summer grooming techniques and equipment that dog owners have been purchasing at her Carytown store.
“One of the things you can do for your dog is get the shed-less treatment that gets that dead undercoat out. The top coat actually insulates them from the heat, so if you just get the winter coat out, they can actually be a lot cooler than if they were shaved,” she said.
“The Swamp Cooler by Ruff Wear is also great, you soak it in water and squeeze out excess, and for four hours it keeps them cool,” said Tremblay. “Those are great for black-coated dogs and squished-faced dogs because they have a hard time keeping themselves cool.”
Even though life jackets, canine water bottles, and other dog safety items have become more common in Richmond this summer, the most popular way to cool off seems to be a simple jump in the James River.
“We are either inside or in the water when it’s this hot,” said Richmond resident Wes Jones, 30, pulling on the leash of Sullivan, his energetic year-and-a-half-old chocolate lab. “And today, we’re in the water.”
Ragland, along with many other dog owners at Texas Beach, kept a careful eye on his puppy as the heat intensified. He picked up the tennis ball he had been tossing with Peeber and shielded his eyes as he looked up at the noon sun.
“We won’t be out here for more than an hour,” he said.