Article about taking care of your Bouvier during the hot summer. Some material applies to all dogs.



by Pam Green,© 1991

Summer is not the easiest time of year for Bouviers. The great enemies are foxtails and heat.


"Foxtail" is a generic term that embraces a variety of plant awns that are found in the western US (and I would assume also parts of Canada and Mexico) that have the ability to burrow into the dog's coat and into the dog's skin and then further and further into the body. These little devils keep going and going and going. They have minature barbs that prevent them from backing out. They will be a continued source of infection so long as any tiny bit remains inside the body. Removal is usually a job for your vet, but there is a lot you can do to minimize the risk of these devils getting into your dog's flesh in the first place.

Against foxtails, your best defense is to remove or reduce hair on the vulnerable areas., namely the feet, armpits, and groin. Shaggy hair attracts foxtails like a magnet and makes it difficult for you to spot the invaders before they have completely penetrated. Clip the feet (top and bottom) completely with a #10 blade for best protection. Lesser protection may be had by snipping all hair from between the toes with blunt-tip scissors. Clip armpits and groin with a #10. Also for boy dogs, the area in front of the sheath and around the umbilical seems to attract foxtails. The issues of grooming to reduce risk of foxtails is described in more detail in Practical Grooming of the Bouvier. Uncropped ears are less vulnerable to foreign body intrusions of all kinds, including foxtails, than cropped, but it's too late for that. If a foreign body has gotten into the ear, the dog will show discomfort by a facial expression, by scratching at the ear or digging into it with a paw, and / or by tilting the head so the aggravated ear is carried lower. These changes may not occur until some hours or days after the intrusion has taken place, and can indicate an infection rather than a foreign body. Either way , it's time for a trip to the vet. Rarely a foxtail may get sucked into the nostril. Usually the dog will make a series of very explosive sounding sneezes. A foxtail that has just been whiffed into the nose can sometimes be brought out by immediately packing the nostril full of KY Jelly or similar substance : if you are lucky the foxtail will get sneezed out toghether with the jelly. Otherwise it's time to go to the vet, who will have to heavily sedate or briefly anethesize the dog in order to remove the foxtail. Foxtails in the nose are very dangerous, as they can travel on into the lungs or into the brain.


Against heat generally, reduction of excess coat can give many Bouvs relief. Strip out all the undercoat you can spare and/or shorten the entire coat to about 1/2" length with scissors or clippers. The summer cut-down is described in more detail in Practical Grooming of the Bouvier.

Some Bouvs are delighted to relieve themselves by dipping into a wading pool or tub located in a shady spot in your yard. Of course a pool in the yard means wet Bouvs coming back into the house. So you have to think about which room the dog door leads back into. Do you mind having wet dogs there or not ? You might want to block access to some rooms with stretch gates to exclude wet dogs.

Swimming pools of the people kind can pose a dreadful hazzard to dogs. The obvious danger is that of drowning if the dog gets into the pool but cannot get out again. Don't assume that a tired or frightened dog can find its way to the steps at the shallow end. If your dog has any history of seizures , the dangers of unattended swimming become even greater. Basically if you have a swimming pool, it needs to be fenced off in a way that neither dogs nor children can get in. Neither dogs nor children should have unsupervised access to a swimming pool. However there is a further danger associated with such pools : the chlorine tablets or granules that are used for disinfection are a deadly danger. If a dog inhales the dust or the powder that crumbles off the tablets or inhales the granules, the damage to the dog's lungs will be hideously painful and almost certainly lethal. Keep your pool supply shed totally secured and dog-proofed. Don't trust your pool maintainence persons to be sufficiently careful about this !! Also don't trust the pool maintainence persons to be careful about not letting your dog out of the yard and into the street to be killed. (Don't trust the gardener either ; don't trust any workman in this regard. Keep the dogs inside the house when workers are due in the yard, and personally check that the gate is shut and locked before letting the dogs back into the yard after workmen leave.)

In hot weather every dog needs to drink much more water than in cooler weather. So add some extra bowls in the kitchen, enough to ensure that your dogs won't run dry while you are out of the house. Some dogs, alas, also like to put their feet into the water bowl to cool themselves. So allow for some spillage. And consider also adding a float-valve opperated self-refilling water station (eg Mr Dew Drop is one brand that works well) outdoors to be an additional source. Now I read recently that it's a bad idea to drink water that has been standing in a garden hose becasue lead leaches into the water. So if you use a self-refilling station, it's probably a good idea to buy one of those special "drinking water safe" hoses to hook it up with if you need more hose length than the short drinking water safe hose that comes with the unit. Try to find a shady spot to put the unit and try to run the hose through shade to get there, so that the water will be cooler. Even in the shade, you will find that some algae will grow inside the unit, and you will have to scrub it out periodically.

Heatstroke generally is a risk for summer, especially if you take your dog for excercise during the hot parts of the day or if you leave your dog inside a car (see below) or in the garage during the heat. Signs of heatstroke are extreme panting, fast pounding pulse, weakness, "staring" expression, and finally collapse. Also elevated body temperature, but you probably won't have a rectal thermometer on you when away from the house. First aid is to cool the dog down immediately to prevent brain damage or death. If you are out for a walk or jog, this may mean knocking on people's doors to beg for help. Or grabbing their garden hose, exhausting the hot water inside, and using the cold water to help your dog survive. A cold bath or shower is considered an excellent way. Other possibilites would be ice pack applied to head or between thighs. A cold water enema can be used. It is vital to get the rectal temp down below 103 as soon as possible. Transport the dog to the vet as soon as possible. If you have a choice , get the dog to an experienced Emergency and Intensive Care vet. This is a life threatening emergency.

Against the dreadful danger of cooking your Bouv in the (parked) car, your defense must be much forethought and multiple techniques. Know if shaded parking will be available before you start out and anticipate the movements of the sun and shade. (I just about know every tree in my town by name.) Roll down every bit of glass that can be rolled down --- and do not use any vehicle that has very much glass that cannot be rolled down. Cover all non-roll-down glass with silver-sided reflector tarps or bubble-wrap shields, attached to the car with bungee cords or perhaps velcro strips. Be sure to train your dog to remain in the car reliably with windows open (open when parked; raised again to prevent risk of exit when you get back on the road); otherwise put screens or grills over the open windows or crate the dog in a wire (free air-flow) crate. Keep a thermometer in the car so you can monitor the temperature. When conditions do not allow you to keep the car under 90 degrees, you probably should harden your heart against the "how can you be so cruel?" blackmail messages and leave your Bouv safely at home.

Another situation with heat stroke potential is leaving the dog in the garage during the hot part of the day. I just don't understand the stupidity of people who think that leaving the dog in the garage is just as good as letting him in the house. A closed and uninsulated garage becomes much hotter than the outdoors , especially the shaded outdoors, during the afternoon. It can get killing hot. Not to mention other dangers associated with garages such as antifreeze leaked onto the floor from the car or various toxic substances stored in the garage. (Now of course if your "garage" is no longer a garage, but has been converted into normal living space, hobby room , etc, with insulation and climate control, etc, then this paragraph doesn't apply.)

In hot weather , your dog deserves access to the coolest parts of the house, the same parts that you probably retreat to if you are home during the hot part of the day. Your dog is less able to endure heat than you are : dogs are designed to be good at conserving heat and poor at getting rid of it, while humans are designed just the opposite.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 1991 revised 8/07/03
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