As I was leaving the grocery store today, an older couple exited the restaurant next door, having obviously just enjoyed a late brunch. They walked down the parking lot aisle just ahead of me, and unlocked their car. To my shock, a small poodle popped up from the backseat and jumped into the owner’s arms.
I stood there in the 80 degree heat with my jaw hanging down, debating whether or not to say anything. I watched the man berate the dog, then his wife, and decided I did not want to add myself to the queue. Officers in my area (and many others) will break the windows on a car in similar situations, but as they were leaving there wasn’t much they could do at that point. So I fumed, said a silent prayer for the dog, and went home.
And although it is too late for this particular dog on this particular day, it reminded me that one can never have too many reminders of how to keep your furry friends safe during the hot season. So I’ve collected a few tips from some of my favorite online pet health resources as well as my own experience in the emergency clinic.
1. Heat Stroke/Heat Exhaustion. If you have ever left your dog in the car in the heat, even for a few minutes, thinking it would be OK- think again. It only takes minutes for heat stroke to set in, even with the windows cracked or parking in a shady spot (this does little to help.) The temperature inside a car can often exceed 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. I would challenge anyone who thinks it isn’t that big of a deal to do the experiment yourself- crack the windows and sit in the car! I’ve done it. It stinks. And I wasn’t even wearing a fur coat.
Remember if you have a brachycephalic (short nosed) breed like a pug, boxer, or bulldog, these dogs are even more susceptible than most to extreme temperatures.
2. Water Safety- Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are great swimmers. Puppies are particularly at risk. Every year many animals drown in backyard pools. If you boat, invest in one of the many flotation devices made for dogs (I’m assuming no one here boats with cats!) As we all know, some dogs lack caution or discretion when they are excited, so Pooch Overboard isn’t that uncommon an experience.
3. Coolant/Anti-freeze. Check your garage and by the curb where this bright green fluid tends to accumulate. It is sweet tasting, very tasty to dogs and cats, and a medical emergency when ingested. Even minute amounts can be lethal. If you suspect your pet has ingested this toxin, go to the nearest emergency clinic ASAP.
4. Sun and heat protection- White coated animals are particularly at risk for sunburn and associated skin cancers, but any animal can get a sunburn. Unhaired areas such as the stomach are very prone to burns if you have a sunbather. If you are going to give your pet a summer cut, make sure there is at least an inch of hair left as a sun barrier; barring that, put your pet in a t-shirt or find a sunscreen that is safe for pets. Make sure if you are walking on hot asphalt or sand that it isn’t too hot to touch- the footpads on dogs and cats are sturdy, but they can be burned on hot surfaces.
5. Random Encounters With the World- It’s nice out, so you spend more time outdoors. So do rattlesnakes. So do annoying people with dog aggressive dogs. So do careless drivers. Many areas have leash laws in place anyway, but protect your pet- keep him or her on a leash or long lead when you are out in public.
And if you happen to be in the Southern California area, and you happen to see an angry looking older man in a red Corvette with vanity plates and an overheated poodle panting in the back, feel free to “accidentally” bump his overcompensatory ding-dong replacement with your shopping cart.