Expert on advice how to keep your pet from getting heat exhaustion this summer

By Nancy Dunham
August 02, 2016 08:35 AM

The true sorrow of a recent felony animal cruelty charge against a Falls Church, Virginia, teenager is that her dog died because she ignored her options.

Firefighters in the Washington, D.C. suburb were called to the parking lot of a PetSmart around noon on Monday, July 25 — a day where temperatures soared to 100 degrees. Officials found a 5-year old puggle locked inside a car, according to WTOP-News. The dog was rushed into a veterinarian’s office inside the store, but died.

Jamie Holeman of California’s Pasadena Humane Society said such scenarios are all too common, especially in areas like California, where people are accustomed to high temperatures.

“People think ‘I’m going to quickly run into the store and grab something. I’ll only be gone a few minutes. Everything will be ok,’ ” she said. “People realize that temperatures rise incredibly rapidly just within a couple of minutes.”

That’s even true in seemingly mild weather. The interior temperature of a car parked in 78-degree weather can reach between 100 and 120 degrees in minutes, reminds PETA. On 90-degree days, temperatures can rise to 160 degrees in about 10 minutes.

“If you want to know what it’s like for your animal, don a coat and sit in an enclosed car,” said veterinarian Jack Stephens, founder/president of Pets Best Insurance in Boise, Idaho. “You’ll quickly understand how pets feel in those conditions.”


Leaving dogs, cats and other animals in parked cars isn’t the only tragic error people make that can harm or even kill their animals. Consider these six steps to keep your pet safe in warm weather:

  1. Don’t leave your pet alone in a car. It sounds like a no-brainer but people are so caught up in their day-to-day routines, they forget to safeguard their pets, said veterinarian Jeffrey Levy, House Call Vet NYC. He noted stores in New York City and elsewhere try to remind owners to care for their pets by posting “Pets Welcome” signs. PetSmart stores are among those that encourage owners to bring pets inside. “I have seen dogs succumb to heat stroke … Until you experience it, you don’t realize how tragic it is. Bringing them back is a tall order,” he said. “Hopefully [signs and news media stories] make people think twice about small things they can do that will benefit their pets.”
  1. Remember that asphalt is hot. It’s easy to forget that pets’s feet are ultra sensitive to the hot black top and cement. If you absolutely must take your pets on hot asphalt and concrete, invest in booties, said Levy. “In addition to their paws being burned, dogs can get sunburned,” reminds Holeman. Pet sunscreen is a must for light colored dogs such as white pit bulls and great Danes, said Levy. And don’t forget dogs that have their hair cut for the season may also need sun protection.
  1. Modify your routine. Most dogs want to please their owners so if you take them hiking they will go along until they are overheated. “You want to avoid any kind of strenuous activity in the heat of the day,” she said, adding dogs with short snouts, such as bull dogs and pugs, older dogs and out-of-shape dogs may be especially sensitive to overheating. “Make sure you also walk in shade,” said Stephens. “That will allow your dog to cool down.”
  1. Keep your cats and rabbits cool. Build a little cubbies for them. Then place a frozen water bottle wrapped in a towel inside. This will keep pets cool even in non-air conditioned homes, said Holeman. Although cats often seek sunlight, they have very sensitive respiratory systems, said Levy. It’s vital to make sure cats have proper ventilation, access to shade and plenty of water. Also, consider giving them canned food to boost hydration.
  1. Don’t forget the water. Even if you wait until you return home to drink water, you shouldn’t force your pet to do so. Carry water and a container from which your pet can drink. When you’re home, put ice in your pet’s water to keep it (and them!) extra cool. It’s also a good idea to bring a spray bottle filled with water to spritz your dog’s feet, said Levy.
  1. Skip the muzzle. Dogs need to pant for heat exchange. Think twice before you muzzle them in hot weather.