Dogs can die in hot cars. And no wonder. According to the AAA Chicago Motor Club, when it's 85 degrees outdoors, and even with the windows open for cross-circulation, the dashboard of a car will heat up to 170 degrees in 15 minutes.
"How hot it can get in a car just blows me away," says Dr. Mike Cavanaugh, executive director and CEO of the Denver, CO-based American Animal Hospital Association. "It seems every year people talk about not leaving their dog in a hot car, yet every year we learn about dogs who need emergency treatment, and some don't make it," says Cavanaugh. "Also, keep track of the heat index. Just as the heat and humidity combined affects people, it also affects dogs."
Being a Border Collie, even in very hot weather Zoe would play fetch all day, says Cavanaugh. "At some point, I just know -- even if she wants more -- it's time to stop."
For dogs left outside during the day, Chicago veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin says, "They must have shade and plenty of water. In fact, we suggest a children's wading pool so the dog has the option to walk around or sit inside it to keep cool."
Regular swimming pools, though, could be a problem.
"Sometimes even dogs who are capable swimmers, like Labrador Retrievers, can't get out because there's no ramp," says Rubin. "Adult supervision around a pool is always a good idea."
When dogs swim in a lake or the ocean, Rubin suggests they wear life preservers specifically made for canines.
Rubin also worries about dogs on tethers. They may overheat or face other risks.
"Sometimes I see dogs tied out on a tether, and I worry about a predator like a coyote appearing, and the dog can't get away," Rubin says. "Also, if something frightens a dog on a tether, such as fireworks, the pet might choke to death in a desperate effort to escape. If the dog does somehow escape and runs off, the pet might get lost or hit by a car."
Cavanaugh adds that if you're running with your dog on a hot day, it's only common sense to run when there's no sun, early in the morning or in the evening. Even then, it's not a bad a idea to take along a mister to spray your dog and yourself.
Rubin says that if a dog is panting heavily on a hot day, has diarrhea, seems to be wandering aimlessly, appears confused, or just drops to the ground, first hose down the pet (larger dogs) or place the dog in a bathtub with moderately cool (not cold) water. Of course, also contact your veterinarian.
To keep your dog cooler on scorching days, try this recipe for clucksicles: Make (low salt) chicken bullion and freeze in an ice cube tray.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)