Doggie Danger: Extreme Heat
With all of the hot temperatures that we've had over the past few days here in Portland, I felt like it might be a perfect time to share what I've learned from having dogs in the extreme heat of the Southwest. I even share some tips for fun things your can do to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated while they are stuck inside.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, but I have been a dog parent in extremely hot climates and have done a lot of research about the subject caring for our dogs. The following information is meant as a starting point. For more detailed information on the subject or specifics for your individual pet, I highly recommend speaking with your veterinarian.
Even with the ocean breezes with temps in the 70s, you can tell by Lucas' tongue that he needs to cool down a bit. Now imagine if he had been chasing the ball during our recent heat wave. Not a good idea.
Tips for keeping your dog cool
The best place for your dog is inside. If your home is not cool enough, you might want to consider these options. Visit a friend or family member, find a doggie daycare, or check with your vet or local animal services to find out about cooling stations.
Have cool, fresh water available at all times.
If your dog needs to be outside for an extended period of time for any reason, you can help them stay cool by providing a shady place to lay down, having a misting hose or filling a kiddie pool with fresh water. (Safety tip: keep an eye on your dog if they are in the kiddie pool to make sure they are safe, but be especially cautious if they have access to a swimming pool as not all dogs are natural swimmers)
Do any long walks or exercise early in the morning or late in the evening. During the middle of the heat, try to just stick to necessary potty breaks. Not only is the air hot, but the asphalt, metal, and sand can reach dangerously high temperatures that could burn their footpads. (Tip: If you cannot hold the back of your hand to the pavement for seven seconds, it is too hot for your dog to walk on.) Remember your dog might now always be able to let you know that their paws are burning. You can also try finding a quality pair of dog booties, but if your dog is anything like Lucas, that could turn into a wrestling match that neither of you want to participate in.
Do not leave your dog unattended outside while you are not home.
Dogs like Pugs and Frenchies with flat faces are more susceptible to heatstroke since they cannot pant as effectively. Other higher risk pets are those that are elderly, overweight, or those with heart or lung diseases.
Dog’s ears and noses, especially those of light-colored dogs can sunburn just like us. You might consider using a sunscreen that is recommended by your veterinarian.
Even if your dog is staying at home, there are still things to consider. Check that all the screens in your home’s windows are in firmly as dogs that are looking for a cool breeze may fall out the window and get injured. If your windows do not have screens, leave them closed or limit access to the area near the window.
Shaving your dog to keep them cooler may not be the best solution. Their coats are made to keep them cool in warm temperatures. Shaving them interferes with their built-in temperature regulation. Now that being said, some breeds do need to have a summer cut but consult your veterinarian before having your dog shaved or groomed for summer to make sure that it is in the best interest of your dog.
Do not leave them in the car. If you are running errands, leave them at home. The temperature in your car climbs extremely fast when it is hot outside. Even when the windows are open. In just 10 minutes the temperature inside your car can increase by 20 degrees. Meaning that even at temps of 80 degrees, your car’s interior will rise to 100 degrees in just 10 minutes.
So, what should you do if you see a pet in a car on a hot day?
Write down the car’s make, model, and license plate number.
If you are near a business, notify the manager so they can make an announcement in hopes of finding the owner quickly.
If you are unable to find the owner, call the non-emergency police number or local animal control and wait near the vehicle.
As a last resort, you can break the window.
Oregon Law HB 2732
As of June 22, 2017, Oregon Law HB 2732 made it legal to break a window as a last resort to save a pet in imminent danger without risk of being sued. There are some things that you need to consider before you start breaking windows. First, determine if the car is locked. Second, you must have a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances that entering the vehicle is necessary to prevent imminent danger to the dog. Third, notify law enforcement or emergency services before or soon after breaking the window using no more force than necessary. You must remain with the car or relatively close by until the authorities or the car’s owner arrived. Taking these steps limits your liability unless it is found that there was gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this is not to be considered legal advice. You can read the bill here for yourself.
What to look for if you think your dog might be suffering from
Signs of Heatstroke or overheating
lack of appetite
lack of coordination
elevated body temperature
dark tongue or gums
What to do if you see any of these signs
contact your vet immediately
help cool your pet down by giving them water, placing wet towels on them,
put a fan near them to blow cool air, rub alcohol on their pads
do not use ice-cold water or ice as this may result in shock
Signs of Burnt foot pads
missing part of their pad
licking or chewing on their feet
change in the pad’s color
What to do if your dog has burnt their pads
rinse their foot in cool water and apply a gentle antibacterial
if you are not at home, get them to a grassy area
do not let them lick their paws
use an antibacterial ointment and cover with a loose bandage
if your dog’s paws get severely burnt, contact your vet immediately
Things to do inside to keep your pet entertained and mentally stimulated
So, you and your dog are stuck inside, now what? Even though they can’t go outside to get exercise, they still need to have mental and physical stimulation.
Here are some ideas:
Make or buy a snuffle mat. These mats help keep a dog occupied for a little while by hiding treats in the mat. Not only do they get a treat, but it will keep them busy.
Try playing the muffin tin puzzle game. Grab a muffin tin out of the cabinet. Fill the cups with treats like carrots, blueberries, crunchy baked treats, etc, and then cover them with tennis balls. This game engages their nose and their brain to get to those yummy treats.
You can hide treats around your house and let your pet loose to go find them.
Another game that can occupy them for a while is to put treats and/or a toy in a bowl and fill it with water. Once it is frozen, you can leave it in the bowl or take it out and let your dog lick their way to a yummy treat or a fun toy. If you take it out of the bowl, I recommend let them like this outside in the shade or put it in a baking dish so you don't have a puddle on the floor.
As long as your house is cool, you can play your dog’s favorite high-energy game. Maybe your dog likes to play tug or a little game of fetch. Whatever game they like to play is fine, just burn off some of that excess energy.
You can also create a fun frozen treat for your furry friend. All you need is an ice cube tray and some ingredients. In most cases, you probably have the ingredients already in your fridge. All you need is a liquid ingredient, like plain yogurt, canned 100% pumpkin or even bone broth. Then add in other fun things like blueberries, carrots, apples, or other dog-friendly fruits and vegetables that your furry friend loves.
Just one more quick reminder. Those pesky foxtails are starting to dry out and shed their seeds. These seeds with their propulsive awns attach to your dog’s fur and other body parts like their eyes and nose. Once the seed attaches to your dog, the awn starts moving it forward into your dog. It burrows under the skin and can cause infection, difficulty breathing, abscesses, and in worst-case scenarios, death.
Be aware of your surroundings and if you do accidentally walk through foxtails, remove them immediately. If you think one might have gotten into their ear, mouth, eye, or other areas from which they might be difficult to remove, contact your veterinarian immediately or visit an emergency pet clinic.
For more information about Foxtails, check out this blog.
Stay cool and safe this summer.