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Hot Cars, Hot Pavements, Hot Beaches

Hot Cars, Hot Pavements, Hot Beaches

Late Summer Dangers for Dogs

Dogs do not handle heat the same way people do, and they are not built for exercise the same way that people are. People can cool off by sweating, and we have sweat glands in the skin all over our bodies. Dogs have very few sweat glands, and they are only located in their footpads. A dog must pant to release heat through their breath and to bring in cooler air as it passes over the saliva in their mouths. This is not a very efficient way to cool off, and it takes time. Add to that the fact that a dog is basically wearing a fur coat, and you can see why it is so important to be careful that your dog does not overheat when outside in warm weather.

Just as the temperature inside a car can soar over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes when it is only 70 degrees outside, so can your dog’s internal temperature get dangerously high very quickly if they are exercising outdoors. I have had dogs come into my hospital suffering from heatstroke because their owners took them jogging at 11:00 p.m. at night. It was summertime, and the temperature outside was above 85 degrees, even though it was nighttime. One dog was a large Rottweiler, which meant it had no business jogging anyway, but the heat would have been a problem for dogs of any breed exercising in 85-degree weather. Just as with people, older and overweight dogs are more at risk.  Certain breeds with much smaller throats and heavier bodies also have higher risk factors. Still, only truly athletic breeds are suited for exercise and, even then, only when outdoor temperatures are safe. 

I also have had dogs come in from the beach with heatstroke. Playing in direct sunlight with all the reflected light energy from the sand and water is too much for any length of time. Another danger to consider at the beach is sunburn, which can happen quickly and damage exposed skin, such as on a dog’s nose and the skin of a dog’s body beneath his hair coat.

Saltwater poisoning is another concern. A dog often will swallow a small amount of water while playing on the beach. This can lead to frequent urination, diarrhea, and dehydration, which can become serious if not enough fresh water is available.  Another hazard in hot weather- burning of your dog’s paws -can happen not only on hot pavement but also on hot sand! A paw pad exposed to a very heated surface (i.e., one in direct sunlight) can be badly burned in just a few minutes.  Because of the location of the injury (the dog walks on his paws all the time), healing can be very difficult and painful and can take weeks. Small pavement, concrete, and gravel particles can also become superheated in direct sunlight and burn into – or get stuck in – the paw pads, causing painful infections that can linger for weeks.  Similarly, small shell particles, coral, and glass also put your dog at risk on a hot beach.  My advice is to be mindful of these dangers when you take your dog out to play in summer, late summer, and other warm-weather months.

  • Always consider the temperature – no matter what time of day or night it is.
  • Try to avoid direct sunlight and take advantage of shady streets and parks, or limit outdoor play to cloudy days.
  • Limit activity, enforce rest breaks in the shade, and offer fresh water frequently to avoid too much exercise.
  • Use sunscreen created explicitly for pets on your dog’s nose and areas where the hair coat is thin, and you can see their skin.
  • Be mindful of the surface your dog is walking on and how hot that may be.
  • Always inspect your pet’s paws, pads, and nails after running and playing outside. It is a good idea to clean between the pads and toes after every outing.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water and a shady or even air-conditioned spot after a good romp.

 If you suspect your pet has become overheated, use water at normal room temperature to cool him down. If your pet can stand, let him do so in a small pool of water or cover him with a wet towel. You do not want to use ice water, which can have the opposite effect, causing blood vessels to constrict and preventing pets from getting rid of heat.Using a fan or air conditioning is a good idea, as well. Providing fresh water to drink if he can is also helpful, and transport your pet to a veterinarian immediately.