Don’t let your pets suffer in this heat wave

July 18, 2013
A sunglasses-wearing dog may look cool, but in this hot summer, he probably isn't.
A sunglasses-wearing dog may look cool, but in this hot summer, he probably isn’t. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

It’s summer. In Washington. In a heat wave. You’re hot. Just imagine what your dog feels like, wrapped as he is in a fur coat.

In the last six weeks the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has responded to 31 calls of animals left in hot cars or outside without access to water. “We have saved two animals, on the verge of danger, from hot cars,” said Alice Burton, chief animal officer at AWLA, in a statement.

The Washington Humane Society has been responding to two to four calls a day for animals left in vehicles. Thankfully, none have died, though two years ago a bulldog was found dead, said the society’s ChristieLyn Diller, and two years before that a dog suffered brain damage after being left in a car when its owner went to get her nails done.

Cracking the windows ain’t gonna cut it when it’s 95 degrees outside.

“A lot of tourists in our area bring their pets thinking they can just run in and see something,” ChristieLyn said. “It does not take very long for that dog to overheat.”

Excessive heat is bad for all of us but it’s especially bad for dogs. They have a higher body temperature to begin with.

“While we may think 85 degrees is tolerable, it’s going to be much worse for your pet,” ChristieLyn said.

If you spot an animal in a hot car, call animal control or the police. And here are some tips you should keep in mind.

Never leave pets in a hot car. Merely leaving a window cracked and a bowl of water on a seat is not going to save your dog. According to the Animal Rescue League of Arlington, a vehicle’s interior temperature can rise by 19o in as little as five minutes. It recommends keeping the 70/40 rule in mind: If the temperature outside is above 70o or below 40o, it is unsafe to leave your pet in the car.

Cool your car. If you must take your dog somewhere, make sure to blast the AC for a while before putting him in in the car.

Exercise with caution. Avoid walking your dog during the day’s highest heat and humidity, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. And think twice before taking your dog for a run in the sun. “Jogging definitely concerns me,” said Erin Casey a veterinarian at Parkway Veterinary Clinic in Burke. “I don’t like having dogs outdoors experiencing significant exercise when temperatures are elevated.”

Be especially careful with certain breeds. Dogs with short snouts – bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers – have narrow nostrils which make breathing in hot, humid weather difficult.

Know the warning signs. Heavy panting, excessive drooling, weakness, dry or bright red gums are all early symptoms of heat distress. “All those are definitely signs they need to be seen by a vet,” Erin Casey said. “It happens very quickly.”

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section.
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