On a recent Sunday morning, a Dalmatian romped through streams of cold water spraying from a hydrant-shaped sprinkler at City Bark, an off-leash dog area in City Park. Meanwhile a mixed-breed dog with thick brown fur soaked in a pool, and a black Labradoodle rolled in a mud puddle before running off to find her owner.
"There’s never a lull in activity here,” said Jackie Shreves, a City Bark board member. “People come early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when it’s not so hot. Dogs even come out in the rain — especially the Labs.”
The high temperatures of a New Orleans summer can wear down the most seasoned local. But the heat is especially tough on dogs.
“You have to know their limitations and hold them back, because they’ll just go until they collapse,” said Dr. Christopher Forstall, a veterinarian and the owner of Southshore Animal Hospital. “You don’t want that to happen.”
Favorite exercise — whether it’s retrieving a frisbee or going for a walk — should happen during the early morning hours or in the evening, Forstall said. A splash of cool water helps. And keep an eye on the clock.
“If it’s 45 minutes and the dog had to take a break, cut it down to a shorter time,” he said, suggesting that pet owners carry a frozen water bottle on their walks.
“As it thaws out, pour a little bit over the dog’s head. That cools them off,” he said.
At home, give dogs plenty of cool water and time inside to enjoy the A/C, or a shady spot in the backyard, “where they can get out of the sun and keep their body temperature down.”
The heat is more difficult for dogs with short snouts, because they have trouble breathing, and canines with thick fur. Forstall recommends that owners shave fluffy dogs, with the reassurance that their coats will grow back just fine.
If you bring Fido to a dog-friendly beach, be mindful that ingesting saltwater can make dogs sick and lead to dehydration.
Apply sunscreen to “fair-skinned” dogs, and to your pet’s snout and other areas that are exposed to the sun, but not covered by fur. Certain products are actually made for dogs. And remember that swimming, like any strenuous activity, can increase a dog’s body temperature.
“That goes back to knowing limitations,” Forstall said. “Always saying: ‘It’s hot right now, so he can only swim for 30 minutes and then take a break in the shade. Then he can go back for more.’”
Fortunately, there are refreshing ways to keep your pup healthy and happy.
Several dog daycares throughout the city have small pools where pups can wet their feet and play with other pooches.
Pet Paradise in Kenner features a bone-shaped pool that’s 2 to 4 feet deep. Cheri Duhon, the general manager, says that it’s mostly for large dogs (or, as she calls her clients, "kids"). But little dogs can also make a splash.
“If you’ve got a Dachshund that can swim, they have that opportunity, but we do it on a one by one basis, so the associate can keep up with the kid,” she said.
Some dogs simply stand in the shallow part of the pool and take in the action around them. Duhon calls them “little hippos.”
Thermography guns are used to detect the temperature of the outdoor deck. “You don’t want your kids to scorch their paws, so we regularly shoot the deck to make sure that it’s a safe temperature for them to walk on,” said Duhon.
Pet Paradise even offers doggie ice cream — a probiotic yogurt treat. It’s available in two flavors: sweet bananas and peanut butter, and savory apples and cheddar.
There are plenty of dog-friendly restaurants in New Orleans, but The Tahyo Tavern will go a step further to make your canine companion feel welcome. Besides offering shaded outdoor seating for patrons and their pets, this French Quarter cafe serves “Bowser Beer” — a nonalcoholic, beef-flavored brew.
Most dog parks include water fountains that are accessible to canines. NOLA City Bark is one of them. This Mid-City locale, open to members with ID, also offers water activities.
City Bark features a vast grassy area, shaded by trees. The pathway that lines the perimeter of the dog park includes water fountains — with spouts for humans and dogs — and shower stations.
“We try to anticipate the heat and make sure it’s safe,” said Shreves. But they can only do so much. “It’s mostly hoping that people use common sense. If it’s too hot for (you), it’s too hot for your dog."