The recent heat wave hopefully would have made everyone acutely aware of the risks that people and pets face with higher temperatures, but there are a number of precautions you can take to make sure your pets are healthy and safe this summer.
If you are out and about during the hottest time of the day, be mindful that dogs do not have shoes to protect them from the hot pavement. Every summer I see a couple of dogs that have painful burns on the pads of the feet. Tarred driveways hold even more heat, so it may be as innocuous as going to get the mail and your dog follows you. If you take a walk and want to take your dog, do it early in the morning or find a park with dirt or grassy paths.
Short-nosed breeds of dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, or Boston terriers are prone to respiratory problems that higher temperatures can worsen. A condition called brachycephalic syndrome with narrow nostrils and extra tissue in the back of the throat interfere with normal air movement. When they pant excessively swelling can develop in the back of the throat with life-threatening consequences.
If you have a breed of dog that snorts and snuffles, keep the air conditioning on high and don't even consider taking him outside except to go to the bathroom.
Dogs with extra insulation in the form of excess pounds have a difficult time maintaining a safe body temperature in the high heat. Remember dogs do not have sweat glands and the only cooling mechanism is panting.
Keep plenty of fresh water available and if your dog spends time outside lots of shade is crucial. A doghouse is not enough; because a small wooden box will turn into a sweat lodge on a hot day, try to have an area with shade and good ventilation.
I hope that it goes without saying that a closed car is no place for any living thing on a hot day, but I would caution you to not take your dog with you even if you do not plan to leave him alone. Most tragedies occur when someone in the confusion of getting home and being distracted inadvertently leaves the dog in the car.
Ninety-degree temperatures will lead to heat stroke and death in just a few minutes and before you realize the dog did not follow you in, it could be too late.
You can still be active and safe with your pets on the hot summer days, but a large dose of common sense and a few precautions will help avoid trouble.
Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.