It’s that time of year again in the desert, when our weather hits triple digits. Our severe heat can be uncomfortable for us, but especially dangerous for our pets. Summer safety is key to protecting our beloved fur family.
Unlike us, most animals do not have the ability to sweat throughout their body. Dogs and cats perspire through their paws and will pant to evaporate water from their oral cavity and upper airways. This is important to know when it comes to outdoor activities and traveling with pets.
Safe summer activities for pets include swimming, indoor doggie play dates/day care, and making fun treats such as pupsicles! Make sure your pet knows how to swim—don’t just assume he will just know how. Gated pools are much safer and protect pets from accidental drowning. Life jackets are also available for pets.
…asphalt is hotter—sometimes almost 40 degrees hotter
It is common for people to lead an active lifestyle with their pets. This is important to remember when you take your pet out during the day. Never walk your dog, hike or run with them in the middle of the day, when temperatures are at their highest. We often forget when we’re out walking or running during the summer, no matter what time of day, dogs aren’t wearing shoes and have direct contact with the asphalt. The asphalt is always going to be hotter, sometimes almost 40 degrees hotter than the weather outside, and this is heating up the only surface your dog can sweat through! Injuries can range from minor paw pad burns to overheating, which leads to heat strokes. A simple rule of thumb: If you can’t walk on the pavement barefoot, then it isn’t safe for your pet, either.
Always remember water! Water at home in bowls, in crates, outside, everywhere. When you’re out, make sure to have water not only for yourself but also for your pets. There are collapsible dog bowls you can purchase that hook onto a belt loop for easy carrying. It is best to avoid letting your dog drink from outside natural water sources, because they may be contaminated, leading to possible parasite infection or just general gastrointestinal upset.
Keep in mind the needs of a pet that lives in the backyard or uses a doggie door, and cats that live outside. Fresh water and shade are a MUST, but it is ultimately best and safest to leave pets indoors during the summer months.
Animals that overheat suffer from “heat stroke,” whereby their temperature rises dangerously high, and if high enough, results in organ and brain damage that can lead to death. All pets are susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke, but certain animals are more at risk. Dark, thick-/double-coated dog breeds, brachycephalic animals, and overweight animals are a few examples. Outside of dogs and cats, guinea pigs and chinchillas are extremely susceptible to heat strokes. Reptiles left outside, especially those that are not desert dwellers naturally, are also at risk and can die from overheating.
Another important aspect of summer is remembering to NEVER leave a pet in a car, even if it’s “just for a minute.” It is illegal, and you can be arrested and charged with animal endangerment and cruelty. Many think leaving the car on with the air conditioning running is okay. This, too, is illegal and it’s illegal year-round,* no matter what the weather is. On average, a locked car heats up 20 degrees every 10 minutes. At that rate, it doesn’t take long to become dangerous.
Summer is a great time for families and their pets to be together enjoying fun activities. For veterinarians, this can be one of the worst times of year for animal emergencies. Remembering these safety tips will protect your fur family members and keep them from being rushed into a veterinary hospital.
Remember, heat stroke is completely preventable!
Take your pet’s favorite stuffable treat toy (like a Kong™ or CHEW Tux™) and layer canned dog food, treats, peanut butter or other favorite snacks and freeze it. Your dog will have a cool treat that takes a while to consume. Supervision is recommended when giving a pet a toy.
HOT CAR REMINDER
Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet, when left in a parked car, at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you. And cracking the windows makes no difference. The chart shows how quickly the temperature can rise in a parked vehicle.
*The California Penal Code regarding leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle:
Section 597.7. (a) No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.
Leaving your animal in an unattended car may also be viewed as an act of animal neglect, which means that the prosecutor could also opt to file additional charges under Penal Code 597 PC.19
Editor’s note: Some cities may have amended (stricter) versions of the law.