No, really, you should leave your dog at home in this heat
I feel like I am preaching to the choir to bring up this topic again. However, a recent email from one of my readers asking to address this subject, in addition to several of my own personal observations, prompted this appeal to dog owners. While many understand how heat affects their four-legged companion(s), it seems that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of dog owners who have no concept of what their animal must endure when exposed to extreme heat.
As I read through the email, I could feel the reader’s angst describing recent activity at their son’s veterinary practice. Several dogs had been admitted to the clinic for heat exhaustion. One dog in particular possibly would not survive the day’s adventure. Even if it did miraculously live, the extent of damage would forever compromise the animal’s bodily function, especially in the heat.
The email described how most of the dogs being treated had been on hiking excursions with their owners. We are fortunate to live in an area abundant with nearby hiking trails, but many of them are located in high desert landscapes void of running water. Shade trees are minimal in these wilderness areas that are often decorated instead with rock formations.
As air temperature increases during the day, the arid terrain absorbs heat from the blazing sun, causing ground temperatures to rise. Whereas humans walk upright on two legs, usually adorned with protective foot coverings, our four-legged companions saunter much closer to ground level. The email suggested that perhaps people should get down and crawl along a rocky trail to fully understand how much hotter it is at a dog’s level.
Interestingly, the email arrived in conjunction with several encounters I recently had witnessing dogs being escorted by their owners during peak heat hours of the day. Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict last week, I ended up running errands in the afternoon instead of my preferred early morning jaunt. I was amazed at how many people were out and about with their dogs.
Sitting at the bank drive-through window, I saw a man walking his Siberian husky across the hot pavement in the blazing heat. The poor animal’s prance sought any shady spot shadowed from parked cars to relieve the searing heat from its feet. I’m sure the animal’s foot pads were on fire as it crossed the scorching parking lot.
Then there was the woman with the Rottweiler at the pet food store who seemed at a loss when the dog did not want to cross the hot pavement. Pulling on its leash and yelling at the young dog, she finally ended up dragging it most of the way to her vehicle. The grand finale that day was when I was stopped at a red light where a homeless man was standing with his sign begging for help. His only companion in this world, a thick-coated border collie, lay panting on the hot concrete in a sliver of shade produced by a large sign.
A few days later, I was sitting on a patio at a local establishment catching up with some friends. I had noticed a large black dog sitting in a Jeep with the side doors off, parked next to the patio when I first arrived. It was around 6 p.m. but the temperatures were still in the upper 80s. When an elderly gentleman walked into the pet-friendly patio with his Yorkshire terrier, the large black dog jumped out of the Jeep to greet the little dog. The feisty terrier expressed his “Leave me alone” attitude to the intrusion, and the big dog meandered over to our table. I ask her to lay down next to me and she happily obliged, glad to be in the cool shade of the patio. When her owners finally came out of the restaurant, I expressed my frustration with them leaving her in the vehicle. They retorted that the dog loved to go with them everywhere they went.
Folks, it is still very hot outside and will continue to be so for a few more weeks. While you may think your dog is enjoying its time with you outside during peak sizzling temperatures, I can attest your pet will be much happier lying under the cooler in the house. Is it really worth risking your pet’s life because you think they want to be with you? Heat exhaustion can kill and/or cause serious bodily injury to your pet. Keep them safe. Leave them home on hot days.