Leaving your dog in a hot car can be a death sentence

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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 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," adds Cavanaugh.

Also, in many communities and some states, it's actually illegal to leave a dog alone in a hot car. Sadly, some jurisdictions don't take the law seriously. However, increasingly public officials and police officers -- often dog owners themselves -- want to see the laws enforced.

"Also, keep track of the heat index. Just as the heat and humidity combined affects people, it also affects dogs," Cavanaugh adds. "I love taking my dog, Zoe, with me. But when temperatures get really hot, I'll leave Zoe home in the air conditioning unless I know I can take Zoe in with me wherever I'm going."

Being a Border Collie, Cavanaugh says that even in very hot weather, Zoe will play fetch all day.

"At some point, I just know, even if she wants more, it's time to stop," he notes.

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 and Newfoundlands can easily jump into the pool and swimming is no problem, but they can't get out because there's no ramp," says Rubin. "Adult supervision around a pool is always a good idea."

When swimming in open water, Rubin suggests all dogs wear life preservers specifically made for dogs.

Cavanaugh adds that if you're jogging with your dog on a hot day, try to run when there is no full sun, early in the morning, or in the evening. Even then, it's not a bad a idea to take along a water mister to spray your pet (and yourself). Also carry water.

People regulate body their temperatures by sweating. Except for perspiring a bit from their paw pads, dogs pretty much don't sweat, which makes them inefficient at cool themselves. What's more, it's normal for dogs to run warmer body temperatures than people (about 101.5 on average).

Rubin says that if your 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 (for larger dogs) or place the animal in a bathtub with moderately cool (not cold) water. Of course, also contact your veterinarian.

To help keep your pooch cooler on hot days, try this recipe for clucksicles: Mix up some (low salt) chicken bullion and freeze it in an ice cube tray.

As for cats, summer is the time when they most often scamper up trees. The problem arises when it's time to come down. In many communities, the local fire department will not help or charges a fee. Do NOT grab a ladder and climb up after the cat. Hospital emergency rooms often treat people who've tried to rescue their cats, but veterinary emergency services rarely treat cats who've fallen from trees. The best advice is to leave a can of tuna or salmon at the base of the tree, allowing hunger to overcome your pet's fear.

(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.)

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