Q. It is brutally hot this year. I know about not keeping my dog in the car when it is hot, but what else do I need to know?
A. This year the heat has come early. Maine usually doesn’t see these high temperatures until July and August. You do need to be careful when your best friend is in your car, but there are other concerns too.
Let’s start with something we all do with our best friend. We go for a walk. Normally, we will walk in the morning or evening because it’s cooler. Our best buds don’t sweat. To cool off they pant, lie in the shade, or stand in water. Because most neighborhood walks don’t have convenient buckets of water along the route, we must be aware of the dog’s comfort. Also, we don’t want Buster to pee or poo on your neighbors' nicely groomed lawn, so we walk on the sidewalk or street. You need to remember the asphalt gets hot quickly. Here is a reference comparing air temperature to asphalt temperature:
Air temperature to Asphalt temperature:
77 degrees…………. 125 degrees
86 degrees…………. 135 degrees
87 degrees…………. 145 degrees
They say skin destruction, burns, start at 125 degrees. So, if the asphalt hurts your hand when you touch it, then think of your best friends blistering feet. Sand can be just as bad. Do you remember running through the hot sand to get to the water to cool your tootsies? Your dog isn’t wearing beach shoes and his feet are burning.
Make sure your dog’s coat is clean and not matted. Healthy coats keep your dog cool because the fur will give a layer of protection from the heat. Don’t shave your dog. Shaving will subject the dog to more direct heat on his skin causing sunburn and heat stroke. Thermal imaging has shown the difference in the temperature of the dog’s skin when shaved and when not. If you want to cut the fur, leave at least an inch so he won’t get hot or sunburned.
If you are going to an event and bringing Fido, here are a few tips to keep him cool. You may want to bring a little wading pool with you. There are collapsible ones you can buy that are good for traveling. Bring ice to put in the drinking water to help keep him cool. There are a lot of cool coats on the market from reflecting material to water-soaked vests. You can find them all over the internet. Have a towel big enough to cover your dog. If he gets hot, soak the towel in cool water and drape it over him while he lays in the shade. You can buy cool mats too for Buster to lie on. Make sure he has a place in the shade. If you are at an event and are working out of your car, there are sunshades that allow in the breeze but reflects the sun. You can cover the whole car with them. Get a windshield shade. It is amazing how much heat is blocked by this one product. There are rechargeable fans that you can set up to blow fresh air into the car so your dog’s body heat is moved away. If you can’t provide any of these protective measures for your dog, then leave him home.
Have fun this summer but be mindful of your best friend's comfort too.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center