Dog Days of Summer - Keep Your Pup Safe

Hot town summer in the city. I don't want to jinx it by saying this but (whisper voice)... our summer weather has been awesome this season! And while we may revel in 27C (80F) degrees, summer temperatures can be unbearable for our pets.

Dogs are particularly inefficient at managing their temperature in this heat. Did you know that unlike us, your pooch has just a few sweat glands, their nose and footpads -- 80% of the time they reduce their temperature by panting. So when high temperatures are combined with a high humidex, lack of ventilation, lack of shade, or access to water, your puppers is especially prone to overheating and even heatstroke.

The inspiration for this post? The other day, after a walk in a shady park, I was returning my client's two sweet fur-babies to their lovely high-rise, hotel residence home when I witnessed another dog walker dropping dogs off. She open the cab of her older model pick-up truck -- in the cab, stacks and stacks of dogs in crates, one crate on top of another. The next move was like a game of "doggie-jenga", as she remove three dogs of varying sizes from crates, clipped them to a lead -- as cars and taxis are coming and going in a busy downtown concierge parking area. Then as the dogs on leads mulled about, she shuffled a couple of the remaining dogs from the crates they were in, into different crates.

Eeeks... busy concierge parking area, in the heart of the city, with honking cars, sirens (typical city noise), people coming and going -- all the typical hustle bustle of a vibrant city... prime to spook a dog that doesn't want to be plunked back into yet another crate in the back of a pick-up truck. I envisioned one of the crated dogs making a break for it and bolting while the dog walker has three dogs tethered to her, surrounded by distracted drivers and vacationing people, business folks, all destination driven, zipping in and out. Definitely not the safest situation for any of the dogs.

But then what concerned me more -- the cab and truck hatch was "bang" slammed shut, and off she went to return the three dogs to their high-rise homes. Those remaining dogs, were left in a parked pick-up truck to wait for her return. After a little research it was discovered that the dog walker works to maintain a cool temperature by having ice blocks in the back with the dogs. Not taking that at face value, after corresponding with a Toronto ice company, a 4 kg (9 lb.) block of ice, in those conditions, would last roughly 2 to 3 hours. So fingers crossed they are packing it well with ice to keep their clients cool the whole ride from pick-up to drop-off.

For perspective on a warm day, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise into the danger zone quickly. Example - on a 22C (72F) degree day it takes about 10-minutes for the temperature inside a parked vehicle to climb to 34C (93F) degrees, 40C (105F) in 20-minutes, 43C (110F) in 30-minutes and 48C (119F) degrees 60-minutes.

"If you work with a dog walker and are not 100% clear or confident regarding their pick-up and drop-off process, please for the health and safety of you pet question exactly how they ensure your pups safety."

Very familiar with the pick-up and drop-off process for my client's with high-rise pups -- at minimum the drop-off process is 5-minute at top speed, but more likely 10-minutes per pooch. Now multiply that process x3 dogs and at a bare minimum the waiting time of the others is an easy 15-minutes, but likely closer to 20 or 30-minutes. Temps rise quickly and it takes time to safely return pups to their home so you can see how it is preferable no pup is left unattended in a vehicle.

And if your fur baby is a brachycephalic breed (i.e. dogs with short muzzle or flat faces like Boxers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Boston Terriers just to name a few), they are at a higher risk for heat-related illness.

Also included in this higher-risk group are older pets, puppies and pooches that are ill or have chronic health condition. In addition to hot vehicles, other contributors to pet overheating include humidity, lack of drinking water and overexertion.

If you work with a dog walker and are not 100% clear or confident regarding their pick-up and drop-off process, please for the health and safety of you pet, question exactly how they ensure your pup safety in these summer temps.

Recognizing Signs of Overheating in Your Pet

The scariest and often deadly result of overheating is heatstroke, which is caused by a dangerous elevation in your pet's body temperature. Please check with your dog walker on their pick-up and drop-off process, to ensure your dog is never waiting in a hot vehicle at pick-up and drop-off time.

When out with your pooch these are symptoms of overheating to watch for and respond to:

  • Heavy panting or rapid breathing

  • Elevated body temperature

  • Excessive thirst

  • Weakness, collapse

  • Glazed eyes

  • Increased pulse and heartbeat

  • Vomiting, bloody diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Bright or dark red tongue, gums

  • Excessive drooling

  • Staggering, stumbling

  • Unconsciousness

How to Treat a Pet Suffering from Heatstroke

If out with your pooch and concerned your dog is overwhelmed by the heat, move your pet into the shade or even better into an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs in a cloth, or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.

While we understand working with pets things can happen, at Funk + Waggers we want to do everything we can to mitigate risk and keep your pet's health and safety top of mind. At Funk + Waggers your pet is never left in a car unattended. We pick-up your pooch from their home, walk your dog in their neighbourhood, and returned them happy and content, provide a fresh bowl of water and email you a report on their outing.

About the author: Tori is a lifetime pet lover who spends her days joyously caring for and engaging with her clients and their dogs and cats. She is the owner of Funk + Waggers, a south west Toronto, south Etobicoke and south Mississauga area based dog walking, puppy support, dog and cat sitting company. Her objective is to share with pet owners everywhere the importance of exercise, engagement, and leadership for raising happy, thriving, well adjusted pets.

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