By Kim Robson:
As a new parent of a rescue dog, I want only the very best life for our new family member. As the “dog days” of summer are upon us, please remember these important summer safety tips for our canine friends.
Never EVER, leave your pet in a closed car.
When the outside temperature is just 78°F, a closed car will reach 90°F in five minutes, and 110°F in 25 minutes. It takes a mere 15 minutes for an animal or child to suffer heat stroke and death inside a hot car.(Things always take longer in stores than we anticipate.) Even four windows cracked open don’t make a difference. If you see a child or pet inside a closed car during the summer, call 911 immediately. Don’t worry; police LIVE to break the car windows of people who would leave their charge to bake to death. Then they stick around to issue a citation or haul them off to jail if appropriate.
YouTuber Terry Bartlett has issued the “Hot Car Challenge,” urging parents to try sitting in a closed car for ten minutes on a hot day to see what it’s like. I’ll admit to leaving Cisco in the car, but with the engine running, reflective shades in the windows, and the AC on full blast – and then only for less than five minutes when I can park right outside the store with the car in sight. (If a robber wants to steal the car, Cisco would probably chew his arms off.) Otherwise, the dog comes in with me, or we just don’t stop.
Take walks during the cool hours.
During the heat of summer, it’s best to avoid exercising your dog during hot days. The best time for walks is early in the morning before sunrise or later in the evening near sunset. Let your dog set the pace. When it’s hot, they don’t need to get strenuous exercise. If you see excessive panting or sudden fatigue, take a break and cool down in the shade, offer water to drink, pour tepid (not cold) water on their paws, or break out the sprinkler or hose. Some dogs LOVE having access to a kiddie pool.
Know how to recognize heatstroke.
If you’ve ever had heatstroke or seen someone suffer from it, then you know it is very serious business. Heatstroke comes on quickly and stealthily. Exposure to high temperature and humidity, and poor ventilation can bring on symptoms that include panting, extremely high temperature, dehydration, rapid heartbeat, a staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, and warm, dry skin, eventually leading to collapse and death.
Pets that are most vulnerable to heatstroke include:
- Very young and very old pets
- Pets who recently have moved from colder to warmer climates
- Pets with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions
- Pets with a history of heat stress. Having heatstroke just once increases vulnerability to it in the future.
With any form of heat stress, prompt veterinary attention is important in order to deal with potential complications, including death.
Pets can get sunburns, too.
White- or light-coated pets can get sunburned if they have naturally short or thinner coats. Pets with pink noses (including dogs, cats and rabbits) can get sunburns on their nose and ears, making them vulnerable to skin cancer. At the beach or poolside? Dogs can get sunburned on their tummies and the insides of their hind legs from sunlight’s reflection off sand or water. Look for a pet-safe sunscreen, or keep at-risk pets in the shade when the sun is brightest.
Watch out for hot pavement.
While most of us have felt the pain of bare feet on hot pavement or sand, we don’t often think of our pet’s bare feet. When the outside air temperature is just 77 degrees, asphalt in the sun heats up to 125 degrees. And when temperatures reach 86 or 87 degrees, asphalt can reach 135 to 143 degrees. To put that into perspective, skin destruction begins in 60 seconds at 125 degrees, and you can fry an egg in five minutes at 131 degrees. Bottom line: if it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your pet, too. Your dog will thank you for a small investment in a pair of dog booties.
Pets need pool safety, too.
Never give a dog unattended access to a swimming pool. Even dogs who’ve never shown interest in swimming may accidentally slip in or give it a try on a hot summer day. A dog’s instinct is to turn around and try to get out where they fell in, which is fine in a river or lake, but not in a pool. Train your dog to swim safely to the steps and get out using these training tips. Child-proof pool fencing won’t necessarily keep your dog out, either. It’s a good idea to give him/her a refresher course at the beginning of pool season each year.
We love our pets like our children, and they deserve the same consideration and care during the summer months to keep them comfortable, safe, and happy.