AARP Eye Center
| In some places this summer, going outside can feel like walking into an oven turned up to broil. And if humans feel that way as they venture out, furry pets are feeling it more.
When faced with sweltering weather, Amy Koepke, 58, of Osceola, Wisconsin, has given her golden retriever Teddy a crew cut, put ice in his water and trimmed down his walk time by 30 minutes in order to make sure he doesn’t overheat as temperatures climb.
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“When it gets hot and humid, it definitely makes a difference,” Koepke says. “It really comes down to treating a dog how you want to be treated.”
As summer heat intensifies, pet owners themselves need to make sure they avoid heat stroke and dehydration, but they also need to pay similar attention to their dogs to help keep them cool.
Dogs cool themselves by panting. But panting becomes inefficient in extreme heat, during physical exertion, when a dog is dehydrated, when there’s insufficient ventilation or due to a combination of those factors.
Within minutes, a dog can become overheated, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke, kidney failure, brain damage and even death, veterinarians say.
Factors beyond temperature
Overheating is “producing body heat faster than the dog can dissipate the heat into the environment,” says Michael Davis, who specializes in veterinary sports medicine at Oklahoma State University.
When it comes to gauging the weather environment for pets, temperature is critical, but humidity can be more important than temperature, Davis says. Seventy degrees with high humidity can be just as dangerous for your dog as 90 degrees and low humidity, based on a heat index he helped create for military dog training.
A good rule of thumb: If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your canine companion, says Katie True, a veterinarian and medical director of Midtown Animal Hospital in Sacramento, California. However, it depends on the dog’s health, activity and acclimation to the climate, she adds.
Heatstroke may occur when a dog’s body temperature (normally around 101.5 degrees) rises to 106 degrees or higher. One of the most common causes of heatstroke is leaving a dog in a hot vehicle without sufficient air flow. Never leave a dog alone in a car, especially in the summer, even with the windows partially open.