Summer Pet Safety (Protect Dogs In Hot Weather)


The expression “dog days of summer” comes from the ancient Romans.  They made the connection that the hottest summer days occurred at the same time that the dog star, Sirius, appears to rise and set with the sun.  The Roman culture thought the heat from Sirius increased the sun’s temperature.

In warm weather, companion animals must never be left alone in cars, not even for ten minutes.  The ASPCA indicates that on an 85-degree day, it takes only ten minutes for a car’s interior to reach 102 degrees, even with windows open an inch or two.  If you don’t believe it, try sitting in a car on an 85-degree day with the windows open an inch or two.  You’ll become a believer in no time at all.

After half an hour on an 85-degree day, a car’s interior can reach 120 degrees.  Shade offers little protection on a hot day and moves with the sun anyway.  Even when the temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car can be as much as twenty degrees hotter than the temperature outdoors.

Such temperatures are hot enough to cause a dog to suffer heatstroke and permanent brain damage.  Without emergency care, the animal could die.  Those animals most at risk of overheating are young or elderly animals, those with short muzzles, and those with thick or dark-colored coats.  Dogs don’t sweat the way people do, except some from their paws, according to Gene Mueller, a veterinarian, and president of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.

To bring down the body temperature of an overheated animal, soak the animal in cool water, not ice water, making sure that the water does not get into the mouth or nose of an unconscious animal.  Seek immediate veterinary care.

Remember, when traveling during hot weather, exercise your companion animal during dawn or dusk which are the coolest parts of the day.  Always carry a gallon thermos of cold water.

This is all just common sense, right?  Unfortunately, on many occasions, I have needed to have an announcement made at a department or grocery store to notify the person who left an animal in his or her car to attend to the animal before it succumbs.  One time I called the police but ended up confronting the woman leaving the store before the police arrived.  Common sense?  That is a commodity some people are lacking.

When you see an animal left in a car, take action.  It is illegal in Connecticut to leave a child or an animal unsupervised in a car at places like malls, casinos, and the like.  Tell the courtesy desk clerk to announce the license plate number and alert the customer to return to their car.  If this doesn’t get their attention, call the police.  What they are doing is against the law.

You may also want to generously distribute leaflets produced by the American Humane Association (P.O. Box 1266, Denver, Colorado 80201), entitled, “How Long Will You Be Gone?”  Educate those who don’t have, or won’t use common sense.

Gregory Simpson’s animal welfare involvement spans over 25 years, has provided leadership for several Connecticut organizations, as well as has served as state advisor to the national Friends of Animals. Chosen by CAT FANCY magazine as one of the ultimate cat lovers in the U.S., he is also a member of the Cat Writers’ Association.

by Gregory M. Simpson

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