Summer’s here, and while you and your family frolic in the out-of-doors, don’t forget that warmth and sunshine could spell serious illness or death for your dog.
Deborah S. Greco, associate professor of clinical sciences at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, sums up hot-weather dog care: don’t leave a dog in an enclosed area, especially a vehicle.
"The primary problem we see in summer is that animals are confined to a small space, usually a car," she said. "A vehicle can sustain a rise in temperature that can reach 110 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit within a few minutes, in which case the dog is unable to dissipate heat and becomes affected by the high environmental temperatures."
In an enclosed space – including metal sheds or even confinement on a short tether in a sunlit area – "It’s only a matter of minutes before an animal succumbs to heat exhaustion," she said.
Dogs dissipate most body heat by panting, and snub-nosed breeds have more trouble cooling themselves than those with longer snouts. Cooling off is more difficult for obese animals than for those with less fat. And individual animals in a vehicle are affected by factors like the outside temperature, intensity of sunlight, how far the windows are open and the relative humidity.
If you see an animal confined to a vehicle and if that animal is panting heavily, call 911 or another emergency service to have the dog removed immediately.
"The best method for cooling down an overheated animal is to wet the dog down with water and, as soon as possible, transfer the dog to a veterinary facility," Greco said.
The same problem doesn’t exist with cats, which rarely develop heatstroke.
"They are desert animals and they have more efficient mechanisms for cooling themselves than dogs," she said, although she doesn’t advise keeping any animal in an overheated vehicle for any amount of time.
In general, if you have to leave a dog outside in open air for any period of time, make sure the animal has unlimited drinking water, a small wading pool with clean water in which to cool off and lots of shade. That, a short summer haircut (not shaved, however; dogs can get sunburned) and prevention are the best cure.
"If you love your dog, leave him at home," Greco said. "Don’t put him in the car, particularly in the summertime."
If you do take your pet for a ride, say to a park, don’t take any chances, Greco said.
"Don’t leave the dog in the car unattended for any amount of time at all," she said. "That’s the best rule."