Is it early for summer, late for summer, in between for summer? Who knows anymore. I feel like dates have become fluid and the weather does what it wants. But as I sat out scorching in the sun I realized it’s time to talk about the heat.
As always with heat and humidity, our adorable smooshy-faced dogs are our number one concern. Dogs like pugs, Bostons, Frenchies, and bulldogs who have shorter faces, narrower nostrils and tracheas, and longer soft palates suffer more with the heat. There are certainly exceptions in these breeds but if you can hear your dog breathing when everything is normal, it should not be out exercising in very hot weather. These dogs lack the ability to adequately cool themselves down by panting and suffer a far higher incidence of heatstroke and death.
Our other endangered population is older dogs with laryngeal paralysis. These dogs suffer an age-related dysfunction with their arytenoid cartilage. These are the two “doors” at the back of the throat that close when you swallow and open with you breathe in. In these dogs, they don’t open fully when they breathe in, so their air exchange is less efficient. This makes them less tolerant to hot, humid weather plus exercise.
The next important point is that even if you have a long-nosed, skinny, young dog we still need to be aware of the increasing heat. You should not leave your pets (or children!) in a car if it is over 70 degrees outside. We know this, we say it, we think it. But 70 doesn’t seem that hot. If it is 70 out you’ll still bring a long-sleeved shirt with you when you go to dinner. But closed cars act as a greenhouse. Think of how you brace yourself when you are running errands and you open the door to your car. Think of how seats stick to your skin. Unless it is running with the air conditioning on, the heat intensifies inside rapidly. If it is 75 degrees out, temperatures in a car can reach 118 degrees. If it is 90 degrees out car temperatures can reach about 143 degrees. Both of those are not appropriate temperatures for pets.
It can be appropriate to park in the shade with windows down if your dog won’t get out for a short while. But the shade moves, and so do dogs. Parking with the air conditioning on is another viable option, but in the age of greenhouse gasses probably isn’t the best bet. Not to mention that leaving a car running with a dog inside can be a dangerous proposition except for short errands.
The other thing that we don’t always think about is how hot the ground gets. Make sure to only take pets on grass or shaded areas, as pavement and stones can get extremely hot in the sun. If you wouldn’t walk on it barefoot (due to heat, I’ll admit that I walk nowhere barefoot), then your dog shouldn’t walk on it with just their paw pads.
Dogs and cats can’t sweat, and while panting is an effective cooling measure for dogs up to a point it isn’t foolproof. It dehydrates them and increases their respiratory rate, so long-term isn’t healthy. Any cat panting is a sure sign that your cat is in severe distress and needs to go to a veterinarian immediately. They both cool some through their feet, but when they are walking on a hot surface this doesn’t help at all. Just like our sweat, all of these measures also dehydrate our pets.
It is very important to always have fresh cool water available. If you are hiking in the heat make sure there are water sources or that you bring water. Swimming is an excellent activity for hot days. If your dog is used to swimming (or cat!) this is a great way to get exercise on hot days without the concern of overheating. Sprinklers or pools are home are also a great activity. Remember though that the water sitting in the hose gets very hot, so run it through until it is cooler.
Summer gives us lots of chances to get out to play with our dogs, but we also need to be cognizant of how the weather affects our pets. They are wearing wooly little jackets so always keep that in mind as you plan activities.