Summer Safety for Pets

by Bruce W. Little, DVM

Summer has arrived, although I am aware that some of you in many parts of the United States went directly from winter to summer without the slow transition of spring. Nevertheless, hot weather is upon us and we should all be aware that there are some definite dos and don’ts that should be observed in the summer all across the country regarding our pets.

All pet owners should be advised to NEVER, EVER leave their dogs and cats in a parked car during any season, but especially during the hot, summer months. Dogs do not have sweat glands except in the pads of their feet. They dissipate heat by panting heavily; however, if the temperature inside the car is higher than the temperature of the dog, it cannot dissipate its body heat even with heavy panting. The inside temperature of a car increases exponentially whether it is unusually hot outside or not. For instance, on an 80 degrees F. day outside the car, the temperature inside the car rises by 19 degrees F. within ten minutes. The temperature rises by 34 degrees F. inside the car after thirty minutes and the temperature inside the car rises by 43 degrees F. after one hour. So, an 80 degree outside temperature can reach a dangerous 123 degrees F. within an hour regardless of whether the windows are cracked or not. It is very simple, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS IN THE CAR AT ANY TIME!

The most common finding for animals left in the car is heat stroke. The signs of heatstroke in dogs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness. If you witness a dog exhibiting signs of heat stroke, you should immediately attempt to cool the dog down by submerging him in cold water. Give small amounts of cool water to drink rather than allowing the dog to drink excessive amounts all at once that may cause vomiting. When he seems to be stabilized transport him to an animal hospital for treatment.

Summertime cautions also include a shaded area if the dog is to be outside in the yard. This area should be in a location that air can circulate freely and the sun moving across the sky does not interfere with the dog’s ability to seek out the shaded area. Clean fresh water should be available at all times. Once the water in the bowl becomes heated, you should discard that water and refill the bowl with fresh cool water. Always empty an outside garden hose of the hot water accumulated in the hose before using the hose to fill the water bowl of your pet.

Hot concrete or asphalt can burn the pads on the feet of your pet. Either walk your dog in a grassy area or place booties over all four feet to protect them from the hot surfaces. These surfaces do cool down somewhat after the sun sets in the evening, so choose the optimum time to walk your dog or take him to the dog park. Early morning seems to be the best time in most parts of the country.

With these few cautions pet owners can make their dogs and cats feel better during the hot months of the year. Use good judgment and you will be rewarded by not only having an enjoyable, loving pet but the costs for emergency care from your veterinarian can be significant. Save that money for treats for you and your pet.