Heat Dog Safety

Brittany Diaz takes a break in the day to sit under a shade tree in Baker Park with her Shih Tzu Rocky. She had a small bowl and bottled water with her for Rocky to stay safe in the heat.

Expressions like “the dog days of summer,” might imply a lazy and somewhat carefree lifestyle, but for pet owners there are many factors to keep in mind in the warmer months.

Bethany Davidson, the humane educator with Frederick County Animal Control and the Pet Adoption Center, said people should view their pets much as they view themselves during the summer: If it’s too hot for humans, it’s likely too hot for animals.

Certain dogs especially do not do well in hot temperatures, Davidson said. These include older dogs, dogs with flat faces who aren’t able to pant as well, overweight animals, animals with heart issues and dogs with thick fur. Specific breeds that can have issues with heat include pugs, Boston terriers, shih tzus, boxers, and American and French bulldogs.

To help prevent heat stroke and sunburn, Davidson suggested taking dogs for walks early in the morning or the evening.

Before going for walks, Davidson recommended putting your hand on the pavement and seeing if you can leave it there for an extended period of time. If it’s too hot, then it will likely burn your dog’s feet. A good alternative is to walk them on the grass, mulch or anything that won’t absorb heat, she said.

If dogs have to be outside during the day, they need access to fresh water and shade. A plastic shelter or dog-house does not count as shade, as they can heat up very quickly, Davidson said.

“That basically becomes a sauna,” she said.

Since dogs can’t sweat, they have to pant to stay cool, Davidson said. Symptoms of heat stroke, she said, include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, an increased heart-rate, drooling, bloody diarrhea, mild weakness, collapsing, seizures and vomiting. Davidson added that dogs already have a naturally higher body temperature than humans, so pet owners should speak with their veterinarian about specifics.

The biggest mistake pet owners make with heat stroke is cooling their dog with freezing cold water, which Davidson said is too much of a shock to their system. She said to use lukewarm or room temperature water, and then get medical attention.

“You want to avoid all extremes and you want to get them to the vet as soon as you possibly can,” she said.

When it comes to leaving dogs outside, Davidson said personal morals and the law are conflicting. The law states that an animal cannot be tethered for longer than four hours in a 24-hour period, and that they must have water and shelter. On a hot day, this could be very uncomfortable for most animals, she said.

“All household pets should be inside,” Davidson said.

Heat isn’t the only challenge for dogs in the summertime. Fireworks can be very scary, as can large crowds, Davidson said. While they are going off, she suggested keeping dogs inside, possibly in one particular room with the doors and gates shut. Compression shirts can also be comforting, she said.

Connie Graf, the director of the Frederick County Humane Society, said it’s generally a bad idea to get a new pet if you are planning to go on a summer vacation in the near future.

If you do get a new pet, Graf said it’s especially important in the summer to make sure they are up-to-date with their vaccines and have parasite prevention, since pests like mosquitoes are more prevalent in the summer.

Graf warned dog owners not to get their pet’s hair cut down too low, since the lack of protection could lead to sunburn.

“Their skin turns red just like ours,” she said, adding that sunscreens for dogs are available.

It’s also incorrect to assume that all dogs are good swimmers, she said. It can be a good idea to have a dog wear a life vest if they are near a pool or any other body of water.

“Sometimes dogs can get in but they can’t get out,” Graf said.

Dogs should always be rinsed off when they get out of the pool because of the chemicals, Graf said.

Also, if you have freon put in your car’s air-conditioning, make sure it isn’t dripping antifreeze, which is poisonous for pets, she said.

“And never leave them in the car,” Graf said. “Never, ever.”

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