URBANA, Ill. — Morning runs, trips to the park, explorations of a vast wilderness — for these and a hundred other outdoor adventures, your dog is eagerly waiting at the front door, tail a blur.
As we don our raincoat and hiking boots before venturing out, we often forget that our furry companions might benefit from some protection from the elements as well.
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Dr. Karen Campbell, a veterinary dermatologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, offers her take on products designed to make our dogs safer and more comfortable on these outings.
“Booties provide excellent protection against pollens and other foreign bodies that may irritate your dog’s paws, causing him to lick them,” says Campbell. “Footwear also protects against cuts from sharp edges of ice or other substances.”
Winter can be rough on a dog’s feet. The combination of dry air, cold temperatures and road salt creates an environment that breaks down the outer layer of protection on the pads of their paws. This process eventually causes the pad to dry out, crack, bleed, and become raw, which is not only painful but could invite infection.
The hot temperatures of summer are also cause for concern if your pet companion spends much time on pavement. Exposure to hot surfaces such as sidewalks or dark asphalt can result in burns that are slow to heal.
Winter coats are a popular accessory for dogs whose owners remain active during the colder months. While not all dogs need the extra insulation, it’s important to remember that some breeds were not meant for cold climates. Dogs with short, or thin, fur can develop hypothermia or frostbite when exposed to low temperatures, so giving them added protection may be necessary. Dogs with thick fur, however, run the risk of overheating if bundled up during physical activity.
As long as they have their natural coat unshaven, they should be able to enjoy frolicking in the snow.
A piece of gear that has recently made its way into the dog community is the dog backpack.
Designed to distribute weight and pressure evenly across the back, the pack allows dogs to carry their refreshments and accessories comfortably. This might sound like animal cruelty, but dogs often enjoy having a job, and carrying something on their backs is a great solution. Plus, they will appreciate having plenty of fresh water and treats along the way.
The eyes are one of the most vulnerable and sensitive organs on a dog’s body. Certain dog breeds, including pugs and other scrunch-nosed canines, have been shown to be at an increased risk of developing diseases of the eye due to trauma caused by UV light and foreign object irritation.
Dog goggles offer protection from many of these dangers. They reflect harmful UV light as well as shield against pokey sticks, pesky gnats, and other foreign objects. They are made with elastic bands and foam padding that allow for conformation to a dog’s face while reducing irritation.
Campbell also adds, “Clothing can benefit a dog by protecting the skin from UV damage and trauma from sticks, tall grasses, and other objects. Bodysuits can help controlling shedding and provide protection from ticks and biting insects. Clothing can also be used to help protect surgical sites during healing. Coats can also provide a calming, ‘swaddling’ effect that has been shown to reduce anxiety.”
Of course, there can be downsides to these products as well. Campbell says, “Clothing can interfere with a dog’s cooling mechanism, so it’s always a good idea to give the dog plenty of water and watch for signs of overexertion.”
She also recommends that owners monitor the gear for areas where it rubs or is too constrictive, because these areas can result in discomfort or sores.