Hot dog? Tips on keeping pets cool during summer

With warm summer days here some dogs find themselves splashing around in the backyard kiddie pool, happily biting at water from a hose meant to water flowers and running through sprinklers with the kids.

Glorious summer days are sending Kitsap residents outdoors to soak up the sunshine. The arrival of higher temperatures means dog owners need to remember that their furry pals don’t take to hot weather like their paw-rents.

The Kitsap Humane Society is sharing some ways to ensure man’s best friends stay safe during upcoming hot spells.

“Keep them home. Keep them cool. Keep them in the shade,” said Chase Connolly, the society’s Animal Control chief. “Avoid letting your animals outside in excessive heat – which in our area is about 80 degrees.

“I would advise to walk them in the early morning hours or the later evening hours when the sun is not up and beating down on hot surfaces. Make sure they have plenty of drinking water and shade.”

Paw care

When the sun beats down on roads and sidewalks those surfaces heat up. Hot weather and pups’ paws don’t mix.

Pet owners walk around in summer in shoes or flip flops. Dogs though trapse around on exposed pads that can burn if there are walking around on hot surfaces, Connolly said.

Pavement temperature can be significantly higher than the air temperature, points out The Spruce Pets, a group that researches animal issues. When it’s 77 degrees outside the pavement temperature can reach 125 degrees, according to the group.

There is no set temperature that signals when it’s too hot to walk animals, Connolly said. But look at the surface the animal will be travelling – blacktop heats faster than asphalt. What color is the surface, as black areas tend to attract heat. Finally, see how long the walking area has been in direct sunlight as heat can build over time.

“If it’s in the upper 70’s and 80’s that’s where there is concern. Paws can get burned,” he said.

Pet owners can test to see if safe to walk their tag-wagging friends outside. “My rule of thumb is when I’m at home with my own animals,” Connolly said, “If I walk outside barefoot and it feels hot, that’s enough concern for me to say – we are not going on walk today.”

Another test is to touch the pavement with a hand for 30 seconds. If the heat is uncomfortable, it will be too uncomfortable for the pet.

During the hot periods, it is suggested you walk your dog on grass or other naturally cooler surfaces.

Heat stroke

Exposure of a pet to summer heat can lead to heat stroke. Signs to watch for include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or collapse, the society says.

If an animal is showing signs of heat stroke: “Get the animal in shade. Cool the animal down with water and get the animal to an emergency vet immediately,” Connolly said.

Some dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke, particularly those with flat faces – since they can’t pant as effectively – and ones that are elderly, overweight or have heart or lung issues, he said.

Don’t leave pet in car

It does not have to be hot outside for a car to become dangerously hot inside for pets, experts say.

Studies have shown that even when a car is parked in the shade, with a sunscreen, and with the windows cracked, the temperature goes from hot to deadly in minutes, Connolly said.

When it’s 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. When it’s 80 degrees, the temperature can climb to 99 degrees within 10 minutes, according to the Human Society of the United States.

Rolling down the windows has shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car, Connolly noted.

Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

See pet in hot car

If someone spots an animal in a parked car on a hot day and is concerned about its well-being, Connolly outlined what to do. First, look for signs of distress including lethargy, foaming at the mouth and being non-responsive. Barking, however, does not necessarily denote distress since dogs often bark to protect their space, he added.

“Go into nearby stores and ask them to do an announcement over the store intercom, asking the owner of the vehicle to come to their car and check on their animal.”

If the owner cannot be located, call 9-1-1. This will get animal control involved, Connolly explained. As animal control often has few officers on duty daily to cover from Bainbridge to Gig Harbor, response times vary, he warned.

“When we show up, we assess the animal’s condition from the outside. We take the temperature of the vehicle with a heat gun. We also check for clinical signs of the animal’s condition – is it experiencing heat distress, is there ventilation, is water provided?” Connolly said.

If none of those factors are being met and the owner cannot be located, the animal control officer can remove the animal from vehicle. “Animal control officers are equipped with a baton so we would essentially break the window out, if the vehicle was locked and remove it.”

Connolly recounted being called on a hot day to investigate a dog in a vehicle parked outside of Macy’s at the Kitsap Mall. The pup was a smaller mixed breed with long hair. “When I got there, the animal was definitely panting. The windows were rolled up, and the car was in direct sunlight. After fifteen minutes the dog was going into a decline,” he said.

Fortunately, the car doors were unlocked so Connolly was easily able to remove the canine. The dog was immediately given water and taken to the animal shelter. When the owner returned to the car, a notice said their pet had been removed. “The owner came to the shelter, and we had I would say ‘an educational discussion’ about the concerns we had seen. [The owner was] upset the animal had been removed but was thankful we did it.”

In another instance, a fellow officer was called to East Bremerton about a small Yorkie-mix dog alone in a car. It was on the front seat of a vehicle that had been abandoned. The dog had a Jolly Roger melted to its fur, Connolly said. In this case, the animal control officer had to break the window to remove the animal and bring it the Kitsap Humane Society where it was nursed back to health. Eventually, the rescued dog was adopted.

During summer months, animal control gets about 10-15 calls a day about animals left in vehicles, most come on days when temperatures hit 75 degrees and above, Connolly noted. Fortunately, in most cases, by the time an officer arrives the pet owners have already returned to their car and left, he said.

Connolly advised pet owners to either leave their precious buddy at home or bring along a friend who can stay in the car with the animal with the air conditioning running while the pet owner shops.