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Summer Care

Taking Care of a Maltese in the Summer

maltese-dog-on-motorcycle
Precious, photo courtesy of Paul

Overview

For optimal care, you'll want to adjust how you do things throughout the year, depending on the season. And summer, with its hot, sunny days, is definitely a time to reassess and make some changes. 

In this section, we'll cover everything that you need to know with the top 7 summertime care tips for Maltese puppies and dogs. 

Summer Care Tip #1 - Protect the Nose

The nose is one of the most vulnerable areas on a dog. And in the summer, with the nose being so openly exposed to the sun, there can be issues. 

This is one of those things that is not apparent in one day. Rather, as summer ticks by, and a Maltese's nose is exposed to strong sunshine over the course of weeks, there can be a progressive change. 

The most common issue seen is dry nose skin. For some dogs, this may domino into peeling or even cracking. 
What to do:
While you do not want to screen the nose at all times (some sun exposure is good for a Maltese's nose, it helps keep the pigment black), you will want to use a quality nose balm in two cases:

1 - If your Maltese will be outside on a sunny summer day for 4+ hours, or

2- If you notice that issues have started, including the nose being very dry or starting to peel. 

Summer Care Tip #2 - Protect the Skin & Coat

There are two elements of concern:

1) Dogs with white coats have very little protection from the sun's rays and this goes double for breeds with hair as opposed to fur. So, of course, this applies to the Maltese. A slight sunburn can lead to peeling and itchiness. And too much sun on the coat can lead to drying; you may notice hairs becoming brittle. 

2) When a dog is outside, sun is reflected up from certain ground surfaces; for this reason, a dog can get too much sun on his belly, even if the belly is not directly exposed. 
With Maltese puppies and dogs, sun rays directly or indirectly on the stomach can lead to discoloration of the skin.

It often takes weeks of summertime exposure; however, you may notice tiny dark spots appearing. They may stay as small freckles or continue to keep developing and grow into larger black spots. 

These may also develop up the flanks. If so, while you will not directly see those spots (unless you part the hair), it can lead to the coat looking less than white, due to the darker color that is underneath. 

For these reasons, you will want to protect your Maltese's body and coat in the summer. This can be done by:

1- Using a leave-in coat spritz with sunscreen like Chris Christensen Ice on Ice Conditioner with Sunscreen

A leave-in is always recommended year-round, to help prevent split ends, protect against contact friction, limit tangles, and keep the coat healthy. 
maltese-on-big-yellow-ball
Eco, male, photo courtesy of Anna Leong
And in the summer, Ice on Ice or another of your choosing that has a good sunscreen can help prevent the issues that we covered. 

2- Apply a canine sunscreen to the belly. Do NOT use human sunscreen; it contains zinc which is toxic to dogs. 
The only FDA compliant sunscreen is Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets (see image below); and this is a great choice. It has no zinc of course, is 30-40 SPF, is non-oily, and actually smells pretty good. 

Apply this to your Maltese's belly about 15 minutes before heading out on sunny summer days anytime you'll be out for 20+ minutes. 

Summer Care Tip #3 - Protect Your Maltese's Paws

There are quite a few important summertime care tips, but perhaps none so vital as paw protection. 

A dog's paws can take quite a bit. The skin is thicker than any other part of the body, and there is cushioning in the pads to help a dog maneuver over terrain. However, paw pads are not invincible. In fact, far from it. 

Paws can develop sores, ulcers, blisters, and/or cracks when exposed to extreme heat or cold. In the summer, burns to the paws can happen immediately, or there can be gradual damage.

If gradual, a Maltese will start to favor a paw, may lick or chew at it, and/or the pads will be sensitive and prone to drying and cracking. 

120 F on the paws is the pain threshold for canines. At 140 F, damage will occur within 60 seconds.

So, how hot can the roads or sidewalks be? The answer may surprise you. 

There are lots stats on how hot sidewalks can get; however, let's take a look at the summary of How Hot is that Sidewalk, by Marcia Breithaupt, of Liberty Home Pet Services.

Reading taken during the summer in Florida on various surfaces: cement heated up to 125 F by 2 PM, red brick hit 125 F by noon and soared up to 134 F by 2 PM. And blacktop pavement also reached 125 F by noon and shot up to a shocking 140 F by 2 PM (not cooling down to a safe temperature until 7 PM). 
maltese-running-outside-in-summer
Albi, photo courtesy of Margaret Mohamed
A good rule of thumb to remember is that on sunny days, if the air temperature is 77 F or higher, asphalt can be 125 F or higher. So, this is applicable to just about every summer day in which it is not overcast or raining.  
What to do:
First, protect the paws in 1 of 2 ways: 

1 - Place doggie shoes on your Maltese. Some dogs love this and others not so much. In addition, it can be tricky to find shoes small enough for a tiny Maltese that are also durable and comfortable. 

Another issue with shoes is that you'll want them to be breathable (since dogs sweat through their paws), and most shoes water-proof because they are designed for winter, not summer. 

This is why option 2 often works best...

2- Or use a quality paw wax
A good canine paw wax will offer a layer of protection. This does not mean that your Maltese will be able to walk over blazing hot surfaces; however, it will allow your puppy or dog to handle much more than he would otherwise.

You'll want to use a quality wax like, which is breathable and absorbs quickly. Massage this into paws 2 to 3 times per week. This is made with 100% all natural wax so it is non-toxic; however, you may find it works best to apply this right before your Maltese goes to sleep. 
And second, time walks to avoid the window of 12 noon and 3 PM, which is when pavement often reaches max temperature. Otherwise, when possible stick to the shade or if there are options, allow your Maltese to walk on the grass. 
Below are the 4 summer care items that we've discussed so far: 1) nose balm 2) coat leave-in with sunscreen 3) canine sunscreen for the belly and 4) paw wax.

If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. And next, we'll cover more tips including over-heating and eating. 

Summer Care Tip #4 - Help Your Maltese Stay Cool

Dogs can get overheated very quickly and when it's hot outside, they crave feeling cool just like us humans. Here's some tips that can help your Maltese be comfortable, even it's oppressively hot: 

1. If taking your Maltese out for a drive, run the AC to cool down the car before placing him in and be sure to check if the car seat is hot before buckling him up. 

2. The best time for walks is before 10 AM and after 5 PM.

3. Extra water is vital. For both walks and when taking your puppy or dog out with you, be sure to bring along water. A canine water travel container that serves as both holder and bowl is very convenient. 
4. For fun outside, set up a small kiddie pool. Most dogs just love these, and it's also a great way to keep your Maltese busy if you want your dog outside with you in the summer while you're barbecuing, gardening, etc. 

5. Have a back-up plan in case of a power outage at home. Losing power is not that uncommon. It is estimated that year-round, every day 500,000 people in the US lose power for at least 2 hours.

And being prepared is particularly important if you are away at work. Set up your phone to receive alerts (most electric companies offer this free service) and find someone who can pick up your dog if the AC cuts out. 
6. For long outings in the summer where there'll be lots of walking, consider a canine stroller. These allow a dog to ride instead of walking, and keep a dog shaded. Or, another great option is a carry sling or bag. While this will not keep a dog shaded, it does keep him up high near you and not walking in the heat. 

7. For both inside and outside, a canine cooling mat is a life-saver. 
maltese-with-dandelion
Layla, at 4 months old,
 photo courtesy of Pam King
Look for one that is self-cooling (no cords or plugs) that works via an inner cooling gel. 

You can use this inside on the floor or over your Maltese's bed, out in the yard on the grass or deck, and even bring this along to summer outings. Tip: A self-cooling mat will not feel very cold to you; these are activated when a dog lies down, and the gentle cooling radiates up into a dog's body. 
Below are some of the summer care items that we just covered: A travel water container, a great stroller, a handy carry sling, and a quality cooling mat. If you do not see the images, try a refresh, and on mobile you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4.

And next, we'll cover thunderstorms, signs of heat stress, and summer insect issues. 

Summer Care Tip #5 - Help During Thunderstorms

Canines often do bad during thunder and lightening storms due to both the noise and the rapid changes in air pressure. So, this goes beyond having a phobia of something; dogs are reacting to real elements. Many dogs will show fearful or even panicked behavior. 

There are ways to help. One thing to consider is a thundershirt that is properly sized for your Maltese. Thundershirts, or vests, work well for many dogs because of a proven swaddling method. When the core body is wrapped, this helps with sudden stress. 
cute-maltese-dog-on-chair
Zuzu, photo courtesy of D. C. White
Please note that many of these are marketed as helping with separation anxiety and other such issues; however, we do not recommend leaving this sort of vest on for 7 to 8 hours. This does, however, help with storms which rarely last over 30 minutes.
A tricky element about these is finding a really good one that is also available in a tiny size that will fit a Maltese. 

If you are indeed looking for a vest for your Maltese this summer, you'll be happy to know that the ThunderShirt Polo Dog Anxiety Jacket comes in both extra-extra small and extra-small (images below). 

Summer Care Tip #6 - Know the Signs of Heat Stress

Even if you are following all of this advice to keep your Maltese safe and happy all summer long, it's still smart to be familiar with the signs of heat stress. Many dogs will keep on running around even if they are overheating, and then only when it's become severe will it be clear. 
There are actually 2 stages of heat stress in dogs: 

1 - Heat exhaustion in which a dog is feeling overwhelmed and will be having a hard time keeping his body cool; body temperature will be 103 F (39 C) 

2 - Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, which is serious and can be fatal due to multiple organ failure; body temperature is 106 F (41 C). 

Let's look at the symptoms (in the order in which they normally occur), along with what to do: 
  • Heavy panting - Stop all activity, bring your Maltese into the shade or inside, and offer water. 
  • Weakness, confusion, and/or vomiting - All of the above, plus work to cool your Maltese down via wet cold hand towels placed on the body (do not use ice) and an oscillating fan. 
  • No improvement within 20 minutes or worsening conditions including diarrhea, seizures, eventual coma - These are signs that a dog is suffering heat stroke. While you may be tempted to rush your puppy or dog to the vet, first work to cool him down via all methods above. 
If you have a helper, continue offering assistance in the car on the way to the emergency animal clinic closest to your house. 

Summer Care Tips #7 - Protect Your Maltese from Summertime Insects

Of top concern are:
  • Fleas - An issue year-round but there is a higher incident rate in the summer 
  • Ticks - In some states these can be an issue all year round and not just in the summer
  • Mosquitoes - Which are the sole carrier of heartworms
Hopefully, you are giving your Maltese a regular heartworm protection. If you use Advantage Multi or another top brand, this already works on fleas.

For this reason, you'll want to concentrate on protecting your Maltese from ticks and Mosquitoes. Because tick and mosquitoes also works on fleas, your puppy or dog will be 'double covered', which does not usually present an issue, particularly if you use a no-chemical, all-natural product. 

We need to be very diligent to keep our pets as free from harmful chemicals as possible. And since at the same time, we need to properly protect them, it can be a balancing act.  

Ticks have been found in every single state in the US. Some ticks can even be found in the winter on any day in which there is no snow cover. 
two-maltese-dogs
Charlie and Annie on Charlie's 1st birthday,
photo courtesy of Jackie
This said, ticks are certainly a summer related issue, since this is the season that they are out in full force. The CDC map of tick geographic distribution is a good resource if you are not sure of tick population in your area.  
If tick population is low to moderate, you may find that using a no-chemical tick and flea repellent works just fine to keep your Maltese safe. 
There are a couple good options:

One is Dr. GreenPet's All Natural Flea and Tick Spray; which is a spray that uses 100% all natural oils: cedar oil, clove oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil to fend off fleas and ticks. Some owners of white coated dogs have reported a staining of the coat; we suspect that they may have gone overboard in applying the spritz. You only need to mist the coat once a week. 
However, another option and our top recommendation is Curealia's Pure Natural Insect Repellent for Dogs; this is a great balm that works to fend off all 3 pests: fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. It is 100% all-natural and contains organic olive oil, organic bees wax, organic shea butter, lavender, cedar-wood, rosewood, and patchouli (a type of mint leaf). 

With this, you take a small pea-sized amount, rub it between your palms so that the balm melts, and then apply it to your Maltese's neck and upper back. 
If tick population is high, and you feel that it would be best to use something stronger, do know that there are risks including quite serious adverse reactions to the chemicals. This said, one that seems to be better tolerated than many is; this is formulated for dogs 5 to 22 lbs.

You may want to think about only using 1/2 of the application each month. 
Below are some of the summertime care items that we covered in this last section: the thundervest that can be found in small enough sizes to fit tiny Maltese, the 2 no-chemical flea, tick & mosquito repellents, and the much stronger option of Frontline. 

If you do not see the images, try a refresh and on mobile you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

Summary

Summer is such a wonderful season. If you experience harsh winters, no doubt you've been looking forward to nice weather. Or maybe you live in Arizona, California, Florida, or another state where it's basically summer all year-round.

Either way, the best way to enjoy the season is to feel confident that you're doing everything possible to keep your Maltese happy, safe, and comfortable. 

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