(Chelsea Update would like to thank Emily Douglas for this story.)
Summertime is a mixed bag for pet owners. It means more exercise and outdoor fun, but also more dangerous conditions for our animals, particularly dogs. But most owners don’t always realize that their dogs are in distress.
Humans are able to cool themselves down more efficiently than most animals. And because our pets try to hide it when they’re experiencing discomfort or pain, we often overlook unsafe conditions and signs of heatstroke.
Walk and run during mornings and evenings. It’s easy to forget that our dogs would not choose to go out during the daytime heat if they were living on their own in the wild. During the summer, animals stick to shady, cool spots in the daytime and go out to roam in the mornings and at night. While we may enjoy a good bike ride or run in the sun, our dogs usually don’t. So try not to make your exercise routine theirs too, if it means heading out in the midday sun.
Hot pavement = Hot dogs. Sidewalks and asphalt heat up quickly and are usually too hot for bare skin and paws by midday, or once the temperature outside reaches 80 degrees. But it’s easy to forget this when our own feet are protected with footwear and our bodies are so much further off the ground. Tip: Place your palm flat on the pavement and hold it there for a full seven seconds. If it’s uncomfortable for your hand, it’s uncomfortable for your dog and they shouldn’t be standing or walking on it. Stick to the shady side of the street, or the grass, or just leave them at home. Even in the early evenings, pavement can retain enough heat to burn tender paws.
Sweating is better than panting. Dogs don’t sweat like we do; they sweat a little through their paws, and they pant. Unfortunately, panting is much less efficient for cooling off than sweating is, and even the most athletic dogs rarely enjoy exercising in hot weather. Animals with shorter noses and flatter faces such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Persian cats have a harder time breathing and are even more susceptible to overheating. It’s also good to remember that head harnesses like Haltis and Gentle Leaders should fit loosely enough for a dog to pant freely.
Cars are ovens, even in moderate heat. Cracked windows don’t work. On a 75-degree day, the temperature in a parked car with the windows cracked will reach 100 degrees in only 10 minutes. Another 20 minutes, and the temperature will climb to 120. When running errands during the summer, leave your dog at home. Check out Dr. Ernie Ward’s “Hot Car” experiment: A veterinarian sits in a hot car for 30 minutes and watches the temperature climb.
Create cool spaces and choices for your pets at home. In the summertime, look for cooler options for your pets such as tile floors or cool cement in the basement, shady spots in the yard with plenty of air flow, and constant access to fresh water. Frozen treats and cooling collars or chilled bandanas are also great tools for keeping them cool and content at home or in the yard.
Signs of heatstroke in dogs can include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, deep red or purple tongue, a staggering or slowed gait, or refusal to move or walk. The above information was gathered from resources provided by the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
(Publisher’s note: Emily Douglas lives in Sylvan Township with her husband, four dogs and one cat. She also volunteers with her registered therapy dog, Peaches, at Chelsea Community Hospital, Chelsea District Library, Ann Arbor Open School and the Humane Society of Huron Valley.)