Summer Safety for Dogs


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Dogs can easily die in hot cars.  Let’s say it’s only 80 degrees outside, in 20 minutes the car will begin to cook, reaching 109 degrees, – even with the windows cracked – according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.  I wanted to confirm how a dog feels in a hot car. Watch what happens to me – it’s only about 82 degrees, and the temperature inside the car exceeds the 120 mark on the thermometer. That’s hot enough to kill a dog, and actually the extreme heat did temporarily knock out our GoPro camera used for this video.

“If it’s too hot for a person, it’s too hot for a dog,” agrees Dr. Mark Russak, past president of the American Animal Hospital Association and board member of North American Veterinary Community.

Actually, there’s some sort of law in 28 states that deals with animals left in unattended vehicles. Still there’s no law to mandate that law enforcement takes reporting  seriously when an animal is trapped in the car, though that is quickly changing.

If you find a pet locked in a hot car, call local law enforcement first, before breaking a window (to protect yourself) unless the animal appears to be in distress, then all bets are off.  If law enforcement refuses to take your call seriously, or doesn’t show up until after their estimated time of arrival, call back and indicate you now need to break the window to save the pet. However, this advice is more ethical than legal.

Hot cars aren’t the only threat for dogs to overheat. Just playing outside can be a problem as dogs can easily overheat and even suffer life threatening heat stroke. While people can sweat off the heat, dogs pretty much only pant, which isn’t a very efficient cooling mechanism.

This is especially true among the brachycephalic or “shortened head” dogs with a short nose, flat face and limited respiratory systems. The Bulldog, French Bulldog and Pug and Pekingese can have extreme problems even in mild heat, which doesn’t bother most dogs. Other dogs with similar issues can include the Chow Chow, Shih Tzu, Bull Mastiff, Chihuahua and others.

Larger dogs generally have far more difficulty in hot weather than small dogs. Coats of dark colored dogs may even get hot to our touch, imagine how the dogs feel. And just as elderly people can struggle in the heat and humidity so can elderly dogs.

Russak, who is in Berlin, CT, says if you go running with your dog and it’s hot, plan the jog early in the morning or after sundown, and always bring water (for yourself and for the dog).

In very hot weather, it’s also best to take dogs out for walks early in the morning or after dark because the concrete or asphalt is cooler. When it’s 85 degrees and sunny, midday asphalt can exceed 150 degrees.  Of course, given a choice dogs will avoid walking on a surface that hot. However, we don’t always give dogs the choice – on a leash, there’s nowhere to go, so dogs “dance” on hot asphalt, potentially burning paw pads. “If that begins to happen, pick up a small dog; or do what you can to get off the asphalt as soon as you can,” Russak warns.

Obviously, plastic kiddie pools are safe places to keep cool. People sometimes forget that not all dogs can swim in larger bodies of water, but it’s challenging to drown in a pool with a foot of water.

Still, even expert swimmers can’t swim forever. Dogs who can’t find their way out of large swimming pools can drown. There should also be easy access out of pool.  For dogs in a real pool or swimming in lake or river, a life jacket for dogs is a good idea, just as it is for children.

 

 

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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