Hot Weather Pet Safety, Texas Style
Everything is hotter in Texas, from the sunshine to the chili. Or so the saying goes. In the case of dangerous conditions for our pets, it’s all true. Whether you live in sun-baked flats or rolling green hills, Texas summers can be intense. But as obvious as warm weather pet safety may seem, some situations are sneaky.
Try this quiz!
Which of the following situations might hold hidden dangers for you pet? Assume drinking water is freely available.
- Attending a parade, picnic, and fireworks display with the family
- Jogging on the beach on a warm day
- Playing a game of Frisbee on a cloudy, but hot and humid, afternoon
- Lounging in the car for just a few minutes, in the shade, with the windows half way down
- Hanging out in the backyard
- Wandering the city on a hot day
Dog Day Afternoons
Dogs instinctively lay low when it’s hot, preferring to slumber in the shade. If a dog does get hot, they cool down primarily by panting and, to a lesser degree, sweating from their paws. For these methods to work, however, external temperatures and humidity must be lower than your dog’s own system.
Summer Sun Ain’t Always Fun
Our dogs love to go out and play. Unfortunately, they don’t always know when to quit. By the time your pet shows symptoms of overheating or heat stroke, it can be too late. If your dog’s temperature approaches 105o F, heat stroke is underway. Rush him or her to the nearest emergency veterinarian before brain and kidney damage are irreversible. If heat stroke progresses, the result will be systems failure and death.
If you notice any of the following symptoms take your pet into the shade or air conditioning immediately, and wrap him or her in a wet towel.
Look out for:
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Staggering or uncoordinated movements
- Lethargy or unconsciousness
- Blue or red gums
- Vomiting or seizure activity
If possible, put your pet in cool (not cold) water. Don’t immerse your pet’s head. Never apply ice or ice water. Call your vet immediately, and go to an emergency veterinary clinic, even if your pet seems better.
About That Quiz…
- Parades are notoriously dangerous. Dogs escape and are run over by horses or vehicles. Unfamiliar children may rush up to pet your dog, and even mild-mannered pets may bite in those circumstances. People can trip over or step on your dog. And frankly, to a dog, a parade is just a lot of loud noise and strange shoes. Picnics usually involve sneaking forbidden treats: a bite of chocolate cake, a chicken leg, cookies with raisins, etc. Fireworks are plain torture. Your dog’s sensitive hearing can be damaged by the explosions, while crowds and flashing lights add to the terror. Leave your dog safely at home during fireworks displays.
- Playing on a beach exposes your dog to:
- Both direct and reflected UV rays that raise temperatures and contribute to sunburn, skin cancers, and even cataracts
- High humidity, which decreases the effectiveness of panting
- Extremely hot sand which can seriously burn footpads
- In high temperatures and humidity, running anywhere, even on a cloudy day, can cause overheating. Few dogs want to stop playing, however, so don’t rely on your dog’s “judgment” to know when you both should quit.
- Never leave an animal in a parked car. Pets cook to death in cars every year while their people leave “for just a few minutes.”
- Dogs must have plenty of shade and water at all times.
- Hot sidewalks and city pavements can burn your pet’s feet. They are even hotter at your dog’s level than yours. When in doubt, take off your shoe and test the temperature yourself!
The best idea is to prevent your pet from overheating at all. To make sure overheating doesn’t happen:
- Carry plenty of water for drinking and cooling off
- If shade isn’t available, dampen your pet before you set out and every so often along the way, to create extra evaporative cooling
- A wet kerchief tied loosely around your pet’s neck looks stylish and will help keep him or her cooler
- When walking, stop for frequent shade breaks
- Don’t exercise in the heat of the day and limit strenuous exercise any time it’s hot and humid
- Dogs with thick fur and breeds with short snouts are more susceptible to overheating. The same goes for puppies and elderly dogs, those with medical conditions, and pregnant or nursing mothers