How to protect your canine from the dog days of summer

Don’t leave pets in a hot car – not even for a minute!

Most dogs like to ride in the car as much as we like having them with us. But the heat inside your vehicle can be a killer for your dog. Even a quick trip to the store is a problem: heat stroke can happen in minutes, damaging your pet’s internal organs and brain and can even cause death.

  • The temperature in your car can rise almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, 30 degrees in 20 minutes and in 60 minutes it can be 40 degrees higher and climbing! Even on a 70-degree day, that means your car can be almost 90 degrees in 10 minutes.
  • Dogs don’t sweat as efficiently as we do. They cool off by panting—which is inadequate on hot days.
  • Remember, your pet wears a fur coat year-round!
  • Studies show cracking the windows doesn’t help.
  • Dogs with “smush” faces like Bulldogs, Pugs and Shih Tzu’s can have trouble breathing in normal conditions and can succumb to heat stroke even faster. Older pets and sick pets are more at risk too.
  • If all of this isn’t enough to convince you, as of August 2017 it is UNLAWFUL to endanger a pet by leaving it in a hot car. You could face penalties up to $999 and/or a year in jail. In fact, if you see a pet suffering in a hot car and you first attempt to find the owner and contact the authorities, you are protected by law for using reasonable force to free a pet—but please read this before you go breaking any windows!

So, by the time you can grab the loaf of bread and eggs you forgot, chat with your neighbor and stand in line, your dog could have suffered varying degrees of heat exhaustion or stroke. Best to leave Fido home.

Overheating can happen anywhere—not just inside cars

Your dog may be able to retrieve the ball for an hour in winter, but in the summer heat, dogs can succumb to heat exhaustion or stroke in 10-15 minutes. Follow some common-sense rules and you’ll help your dog beat the heat.

  • Exercise in moderate temperatures! Thanks to our cool Colorado nights, temperatures usually dip into 50’s or low 60’s in the evening, so plan activities after the sun goes down or before it’s up. Or go to the mountains!
  • Take breaks and keep activities to a moderate or low level.
  • Take regular water breaks and carry water especially for your dog – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • Let your dog burn off extra energy playing in the sprinkler or baby pool, or swimming in a pond or pool (provided dogs are welcome).
  • Ask the groomer if a summer cut is appropriate for your heavy-coated breeds.

Watch the feet please!

Who doesn’t love hiking, camping or even taking long walks with their dog? However, there’s a real risk of paw injuries due to hot surfaces. Tests show that at 77 degrees, pavement reaches a temperature of 125 degrees. Likewise, rocks get hot and we see multiple cases of blistered paw pads every summer. Paws are just specialized skin. Yeah, they’re tough, but when they’re cut they bleed—profusely! Paws can be bruised, burned, torn and punctured just like any other skin. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on the hot pavement comfortably for five seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog on the street.

So, if you’re planning to walk, hike, or run in the summer:

  • Consider a well-fitted pair of durable booties.
  • Test the sidewalk or pavement before you walk.
  • Consider dirt trails, especially shaded ones.
  • Learn about paw and skin first aid (we have an upcoming pet first aid class at Overland!) and pack a homemade first-aid kit for hikes and camping.

Know the signs of overheating and stroke—and what to do

Early signs:

  • excessive panting that doesn’t subside with rest
  • less responsive to commands
  • wandering off instead engaging when called or the ball is thrown
  • Rectal temperature over 103 (learning to take your dog’s temp is a valuable skill!)

When in doubt, seek shade and offer water (don’t force). Let him drink a few sips at a time, as too much at once may induce vomiting. Cool your pet’s body with water from a hose, pond or pool. If you can’t cool him with water directly, wet towels or cloths and lay them on his neck or the between the front and back legs.

More severe signs:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
  • Bright or dark red tongue, gums
  • Staggering
  • Elevated body temperature (104ºF and up)
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unconsciousness

If you observe these symptoms, don’t wait—call a veterinarian and begin the steps above, if possible while on your way to your vet or an emergency hospital. If your pet is having seizures or collapsed, wait until you are comfortable moving him or ask for help.