Experts Corner: Keeping your best friend safe this summer

Tami Sherrill from the Personal Paw has some simple tips to keep your dog safe in the heat.

Tami and Thunder

Tami and Thunder

These tips are really just common sense and very simple to employ. Pet owners just have to remember to take a few extra steps to ensure that each and every member of the family stays safe during the warmer months when we are all outdoors more often.

Keep your emergency information with you at all times. When an emergency situation happens, it’s not the time to start frantically searching for your veterinarian’s phone number, or the address of the nearest emergency clinic. Keep important numbers and medical information for your pet up to date and in your wallet or by the phone at all times. You should definitely make sure your dogs ID and registration is up to date. He might get over-excited and take off, but at least you’ll be able to track him down. And make sure you’re up to date with flea and tick meds — this is the season when they come out in droves.

Never leave an animal in a parked car. Even when it’s only 80 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to more than 120 degrees in just minutes. And, leaving the windows partially rolled down won’t do the trick. Even if you plan to be in the store for “just a minute,” your pet is at risk

Outside Temperature Inside Auto – 4 Windows Cracked
Time                                        Outside Temperature Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer Oven Thermometer
9:15 am 84° 98° 98°
10:00 am 88° 103° 105°
10:30 am 90° 108° 108°
11:00 am 92° 109° 109°
12:00 pm 95° 113° 113°
1:00 pm 101° 114° 115°
2:00 pm 110° 123° 120°
3:40 pm 112° 129° 128°
4:00 pm 115° 132° 130°

Keep animals out of direct sunlight during the heat of the day, roughly 10am to 6pm. Dogs can only regulate their body temperature by panting and by a tiny amount of evaporation of sweat through the pads of their feet. When overheated, heatstroke can occur and lead to brain damage or death. Older, younger, overweight, and snub-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzu’s, etc., long haired cats and pets with respitory disorders can have an especially difficult time with the heat. Also, long-haired breeds may need a summer trim to keep cool. Just remember not to shave the hair too close, creating a risk of sunburn and skin irritation. A good rule of thumb is if you’re uncomfortable your pet is uncomfortable.

Avoid strenuous exercise with your dog on extremely hot days, and do not exercise during the intense, mid-day heat. In hot climates, veterinarians recommend limiting activity to the early morning or late evening, about an hour after the sun has gone down. Be sure to bring along water, make frequent stops to allow your dog to rest and hydrate, and keep activity to 20 minutes or less. Remember that your dogs are eager to please and will keep going until you tell them to stop.

Thunder and his friend Lucky

Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 104-110F degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration; warm dry skin; failure to respond to commands; rapid heartbeat, collapse, coma and death.

 If your pet displays symptoms of heat stroke, seek veterinary attention immediately! Move the animal to a cool place and offer plenty of cool water. Do not soak your pet or immerse them in cold water because their body temperature can plummet and they could develop severe hypothermia. Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet and offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian.

Just because your pet is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this. There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that can be fatal.

Understand kitty quirks. Cats show many of the same symptoms as dogs when stressed by the heat. Early signs of heat stroke can be panting that lasts more than a few minutes, anxiety and pacing, increased heartbeat, respiratory distress or hyperventilation, lethargy, and an increased body temperature. And, cats affected by heat may actually drink less water when they should be drinking more. Add ice cubes to their water bowl, or encourage kitty to drink by dabbing a little water at the corner of his mouth.

Outdoor pets should be provided plenty of shade and fresh, cool water. When temperatures really soar, try to bring your pet indoors. If that’s not possible put a few ice cubes in the water bowl and make sure your outdoor pets can find some shade. Consider a small children’s wading pool for the yard as a way for your pet to cool down.

Prevent sunburn. Animals can get sunburned too, especially short-haired dogs, or dogs and cats with pink skin and white hair. Limit your pet’s exposure when the sun is unusually strong, and ask your veterinarian about an appropriate brand of sun block such as a nonirritating, zinc oxide, that can be applied to his or her ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.

Short summer clips and sunburn. Many dog owners — and some cat owners — like to give their pets short haircuts during the hot months. This doesn’t necessarily ensure a cooler body temperature and could cause your pet to become sunburned. Keeping your dog and cat well groomed is important, but a very short clip isn’t a good idea.

Footpad problems can be caused by hot gravel, pavement or sticky asphalt. Be aware that paws can be burned or damaged. Test the heat radiating from the sidewalk or street for yourself. These hard surfaces absorb and hold heat. If it’s too hot for you to stand on in your bare feet, it will be too hot for the sensitive pads of your pet’s feet as well.  And, while it’s never a good idea for a pet to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, the same rule applies. Place your hand against the bed of the pickup truck. If the metal surface is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your animals. To remove tar, rub footpads with petroleum jelly then gently wash with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Never use gasoline or kerosene to remove tar — these chemicals are highly toxic.

Don’t worry if your pet eats less during hot periods. Unless other symptoms are evident, your pet will usually eat less during very hot weather. Just make sure plenty of fresh water is always available.

Water Safety: Not all dogs are good swimmers by nature. Especially if he has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet with a life jacket. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting hurt in the process), or is tired from choppy water, a life jacket could be what saves your pet’s life. If your pet loves to swim never leave him alone around the pool—dogs can often get in the pool but cannot get out (getting tired and disoriented).

Antifreeze, actually a year-round hazard. With the warmer temperatures of summer, cars over heat and may leak antifreeze. (This is the bright green liquid found oozing from that car with the engine fan on.) Also, people change their antifreeze and may spill or leave unused antifreeze out where pets can access it. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is inviting to pets (and children). It is also extremely toxic in very small amounts. Antifreeze is something to watch out for all year ’round, as all dogs and cats find it delicious. But in summer, cars tend to overheat more and leak antifreeze, so be on the watch when walking your dog.

Call your veterinarian (or physician) immediately if any ingestion is suspected. A safe alternative to Ethylene Glycol antifreeze is available, it is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost a small amount more than ‘regular’ antifreeze, it is worth the peace of mind.

Read instructions carefully when using fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides in your gardens. Summer time is good for gardening, but many of these products may be harmful or toxic to animals. Dogs and cats can become dangerously ill after ingesting product residue by eating freshly treated grass or licking it off their paws.

Many garden and houseplants may cause irritation, illness or death if ingested by pets. Some of the more toxic include tulip, daffodil, and iris bulbs, sago palms, azaleas, amaryllis, dieffenbachia and philodendron. Train your pets so that houseplants and specific areas of the garden are off limits.

In some parts of the country, it is important to also check for plant and seed residue. Many seeds find their way between your pets’ toes or into your pets’ ears and nose and can create serious problems. Check with your veterinarian for local plants which could present problems.

Flea and Tick infestation. Regular grooming is important in helping to control these pests. If dogs or cats have been in fields or wooded areas, check ears, bellies, armpits and base of the tail carefully. Make sure to get your flea and tick prevention from your veterinarian as many that are sold outside of your vet’s office are not safe. Also there are lots of natural flea and tick preventatives.

Mosquitoes and heartworm disease. Dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworm. Have your veterinarian check your pet for heartworm as well as other internal parasites. If you live in a high infestation area i.e. our southern states, ask your veterinarian about a heartworm prevention program.

Rattlesnake bites. Dogs are usually bitten by snakes from May to September while on walks with their owners. Bites from rattlesnakes cause pain and severe swelling. Some dogs, especially small dogs, may go into shock. For a snake bite, there is no better first aid than a set of car keys and any steps that delay transportation will only hurt. If you think your pet has been bitten, get to a veterinarian as soon as possible. With prompt medical attention, most dogs survive.


Remember, your dog’s safety depends on you.

Have a safe and sunny summer.


Tami Sherrill

The Personal Paw


Thank you Tami for this great information. She is available to help you watch your pet this summer when you are away.






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2013-05-01T13:50:35+00:00 April 27th, 2013|