We're in the midst of summer, temperatures are soaring and the humidity is almost unbearable. Most of us retreat to the air conditioning for the duration, but sometimes dogs are not as fortunate. Local veterinarian Dr. David Smith, who owns both Sarasota Veterinary Center and Parkway Veterinary Center, shares his tips for how to keep your canine safe in the summer heat.
Never Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car
If there is one piece of advice Smith wants us to know, it's that car temperatures can rise quickly in a parked car—even if the windows are cracked. On a 90-degree day, the temperature in a car with closed windows can rise to 160 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes, Smith says. That is the temperature of a cool oven and can kill a dog in as little as 15 minutes.
"Leaving your dog in the car leads to bad outcomes almost always," he says.
Be Aware of Hot Pavement
Asphalt and concrete retain heat during the day, which some of us have experienced after walking barefoot through a parking lot from the beach. Similarly, "a paw pad exposed to a very heated surface can be burned in a couple of minutes," Smith says.
"If you can't touch your bare hand to the surface and leave it there, you shouldn't walk your dog on it," Smith says. He recommends avoiding hard outdoor surfaces during the day and sticking to grass with plenty of shade.
Avoid Excessive Exercise
In the evenings the temperature cools slightly, but even at 8 p.m. temperatures remain above 80 degrees. Smith says that's still too warm for a run or more intense exercise. If you must walk your dog during the day keep it brief with plenty of stops in the shade. Don't forget to bring water to keep your canine cool.
Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
Unlike people, dogs have limited sweat glands and they're only located in their paws. That means their ability to cope with high temperatures is less effective. Puppies, elderly dogs, and those with short snouts have a higher susceptibility to heat stroke, but even the healthiest dog is at risk in the Florida heat.
Smith says that symptoms of heat stroke can include excessive panting and salivating, fever and muscle collapse. If you suspect your dog is experiencing heat stroke, he recommends helping to reduce its body temperature by applying cool water to the body and ice packs to the head and neck. "It is important to get your pet to a veterinarian immediately after," he adds.
To avoid heat stress, Smith recommends making sure there is plenty of water available for your pup, ensuring access to shade when outdoors and, again, avoiding intense exercise.