It’s summer in Texas, and once again the temperature has been running well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That means our pets are facing some extra hazards right now.

Parked Cars

I shouldn’t need to say this, but NEVER leave your pet in the car. I don’t care if it’s for five minutes while you run into the drug store. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise as fast as 35 degrees in half an hour, and much of that rise happens in the first few minutes.

Imagine you run into the store to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy, thinking you’ll be in and out in five minutes. But there’s a line, and the pharmacist can’t find your insurance information…next thing you know, you’ve been in there for 30 minutes, and the temperature in your parked car rises from 75 degrees to 110. Maybe more.

Cracking the window does NOT make any appreciable difference. The problem is the sun hitting the metal exterior. It’s basically a big convection oven.

Then I see people try to solve the problem by leaving the car running. Do I really have to tell you this is a bad idea? I know of multiple cases in which vehicles have been stolen with pets inside. And there are even a few documented cases of excited pets knocking a parked, running vehicle into gear and wrecking the car.

Outdoor Hazards

Do you normally leave your dogs outside while you’re gone during the day? If so, you need to take extra precautions. Do they have adequate shade? Have you checked the temperature in that shady spot? I parked in a shady spot the other day; no joke, the temperature in the shade was 107 degrees. You wouldn’t want to spend all day in 107 degree heat. Neither does your pet.

Make sure that all pets, indoors and out, have plenty of water. Especially for outside pets or during outdoor activity time, consider adding chunks of ice to their water to keep it from heating up. Kiddie pools full of water are another good idea to help your pet cool off; just change the water regularly, and remember that your pet is likely to drink some of that water, so no chemicals.

Dog walkers! Remember how hot the pavement and sidewalks can get. If it would burn your feet to walk on it barefooted, it can hurt your pet too. Encourage pets to walk in the grass, or try to do most of your walking early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s not so hot. This is especially important for short-legged pets whose bellies are close to the ground; the heat radiating from the pavement is extra uncomfortable for them.

Remember that senior pets, pets with other health issues, and puppies are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Brachycephalic breeds – like my squish-faced Pekes – are also extra vulnerable to heat. Keep them well-hydrated and limit their exposure. If they get too hot, cool them down fast with tepid water – never cold – and offer water mixed with Pedialyte to help balance their electrolytes.

Heat stroke

As a dog goes into heat stroke, he will pant exhaustively. As he dehydrates, the saliva will become thick and ropy. His gums will go extremely bright or dark red, and then in the later stages of heat stroke can go a pale, shocky gray. Once the gray gums set in, expect bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and either seizures or collapse. At this point, RUN to the vet’s office, because time is critical.

If you catch it in the earlier stages – drooling, red gums, panting heavily – start cooling the dog with tepid water, fans, cold packs inside the back legs. Again, offer water and Pedialyte. Again, you should go to the vet to get the dog checked out, because extreme heat can cause damage that doesn’t show up right away. The vet may want to run fluids to combat the dehydration, or may want to give steroids to keep the lungs working properly.

Excessive heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be deadly. Please take it seriously.

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