As weather heats up, a reminder to keep pets cool

As our Colorado high country continues to wrangle with Mother Nature over late-season snow storms, the temperatures here in the valley are beginning to soar. The warm weather and long days beckon outdoor activity, which for many dog owners includes outings with their best friend. And when you go out, please be cognizant of how hot temperatures can affect their bodies.

A dog’s normal body temperature range is 101–102 degrees. If an animal’s temperature is elevated above the normal range, a condition called hyperthermia occurs. As described at petmd.com, heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia that arises when heat-dissipating attributes of the body cannot regulate extreme external heat.

When an animal suffers from heat stroke, internal organs cannot adjust to the elevated temperatures. The heart rate increases as the animal tries to rid the heat from its body. The lungs are also overworked, which leads to breathing distress. The kidneys can shut down, cellular function throughout the body can be affected, and brain activity is compromised. When the animal’s body can no longer fend off the extreme heat, death occurs.

The article went on to describe how dogs do not have the same ability as humans to excrete sweat through glands, except for a few located in the animal’s feet. Instead, they pant and drool to expel heat from their bodies. When excessive panting is unable to internally adjust the rising body temperatures, the heat stress begins affecting other organs in the body. 

And it does not take very long for an animal to experience symptoms of heat stroke, especially inside a vehicle. Think about how your dog must feel when you open the car door for them to get in on a scorching hot afternoon. The temperature may be 110-125 degrees or higher inside the car, depending on outside temperature and how long the vehicle sat in the sun. Given the choice, the dog would probably decline the invitation and go lie down in the shade.

It is perplexing how many people continue to leave their pet in hot cars. Campaigns pronouncing the danger of leaving a pet in a vehicle on hot summer days are ramping up as temperatures continue to climb in an effort to educate pet owners. Additionally, there are laws prohibiting leaving an animal in a hot vehicle that can result in animal abuse charges. Bottom line: Never leave your pet in a hot car.

Another consideration to keep in mind is your dog’s feet when taking them out for walk. Asphalt, concrete and other ground surfaces retain heat that increases exponentially as temperatures rise. An article written by J. Berens and published on jamanetwork.com reveals that when the air temperature is 77 degrees, asphalt temperatures can be 125 degrees. At 86 degrees, the black surface can reach temperatures near 135 degrees but then jump to 143 degrees when the air temperature is 87 degrees. The article states that at 125 degrees, exposed skin destruction can occur within 60 seconds.

A good “rule of paw” to follow is to press your hand on the hot surface for at least 5–10 seconds. If it is uncomfortable for you, then it is too hot for your dog. Pad burns from exposure to hot surfaces are miserable and take a long time to heal. Feet boots or shoes can help eliminate burns, but honestly, if it is that hot outside, save the walk for a cooler time of day.

Just as harmful rays from the sun burn human’s skin, short-hair or no-hair breeds can also suffer from sunburn. Many breeds have light pigmented skin that easily burns when exposed to the sun’s vibrant rays. A precautionary measure for these type of animals is to dress them in a lightweight coat or apply a pet-friendly sunscreen to reduce burning.

Whether the outing entails running errands or taking your four-legged friend for a hike, take into consideration their well-being. Early mornings and late evenings are ideal times to cavort outside with your dog when cooler temperatures offer a respite from the heat. Always have a ready supply of water for your four-legged friend. An animal can easily suffer from heat stroke without adequate water intake.

As we head into hot summer days, be mindful of your best friend’s welfare. If it is unbearably hot outside for you, imagine what the animal in the parka must feel like. Leave them at home during peak hot times of the day.

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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