By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances
I grew up in the South where heat and humidity are a way of life. Back in those days, many cars came equipped with snazzy vinyl upholstery. It looked good (at the time!) and was highly functional for a family vehicle where spills were commonplace. However, on a hot summer day, those seats turned into veritable griddles that could sear the skin on exposed thighs.
What is the moral of this story? Sorry…nothing too terribly profound…just a reminder that cars get HOT. Really, really hot! According to The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the temperature inside of a car on a MILD, sunny day can rise quickly to 120 degrees or greater. And, because dogs don’t perspire in the same way humans do, they are even more susceptible to rapid overheating. This can quickly lead to heatstroke, suffering and death.
The best way to avoid heatstroke in your pets involves car travel safety and plain old common sense. If you won’t be able to take Fido or Fluffy with you when you stop your vehicle, leave him at home. As much as we all love to keep our best friends with us constantly, there is a very real possibility of killing them with kindness if you leave your dog in a car.
Heatstroke can impact your pets even if they aren’t kept in a car on a warm day. Outdoor dogs with no avenue for escaping the heat of the sun are most susceptible. Prevention is the real key to keeping your pets happy and healthy. Provide ample shade and ventilation. Cool, fresh water must be available throughout the day to give dogs the ability to cool themselves. And, when the heat is extreme, dogs should be taken indoors to benefit from the air conditioning!
If your pet does spend much time outdoors, you should be mindful of the signs of heatstroke in dogs which include:
- Anxious expression
- Refusal to obey commands
- Warm, dry skin
- High fever
- Rapid heartbeat
Remember that heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you have reason to believe your pet is suffering from heatstroke, contact your veterinarian immediately. Apply towels soaked in cool water to the hairless parts of an animal’s body to lower their body temperature. Then get the animal to your veterinarian quickly for additional cooling and other treatments.
With a little effort and good judgment, it is relatively simple to avoid heatstroke in your dog or cat. If it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for them. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is leave them home to crash on the cool floor stretched out in front of their OTHER best friend…the air conditioner!
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Affairs and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.