Safeguard your dog from heat stroke this summer

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Hot weather

A man plays fetch with his dog at Montrose Dog Beach in Chicago. (Anthony Souffle / Chicago Tribune)

Dogs can die in hot cars. According to the AAA Chicago Motor Club, when it's 85 degrees outdoors, even with the car windows open for cross-circulation, the dashboard 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."

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 her 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 says.

For dogs left outside during the day, Chicago veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin stresses, "They must have shade and plenty of water. In fact," he says, "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 is no ramp," says Rubin. "Adult supervision around a pool is always a good idea."

When swimming in an open lake or the ocean, Rubin suggests all dogs wear life preservers specifically made for dogs.

Rubin is also concerned about dogs tethered in yards because they may overheat or face other risks, such as a predator (a coyote, for example) appearing. The dog can't get away. Dogs tethered on metal poles have even been struck by lightning.

Also, if something frightens a dog who's tethered -- like fireworks -- the pet could choke to death trying to escape. If the dog does somehow escape from the tether and runs off, it could then get lost or be hit by a car.

Cavanaugh cautions against running with your dog on a hot day. Run instead 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 you can use to spray yourself and your dog with water.

Rubin says that if the 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 dog in a bathtub with moderately cool (not cold) water. Of course, also contact your veterinarian.

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

For whatever reason, there's a viral rumor spreading on the Internet that ice water is harmful to dogs. In most cases, you can give very cold water to a dog (unless the pet is suffering from heat stroke). Otherwise, the only concern is the dog cracking its teeth on the ice cubes.

(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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