Graphic by Karen Roach

With today’s changing weather patterns, we’re never sure how hot it’s going to be. It’s October, and at this writing, they’re predicting 80 degree temps for Monday. Summertime isn’t the only time to remind everyone that dogs do not tolerate heat well; it’s sometimes assumed that this is only a seasonal warning. It isn’t. Dogs need to pant to allow evaporation, and their heavy hair coats can impede their ability to stay cool in a hot environment. Always make sure they have access to fresh water, shade, or a fan or air conditioning.

Morning walks should be completed by 8:00AM, and evening walks should not be started until around 8:00PM for large-breed dogs, elderly dogs, or those with a medical problem. Keep the walks a little shorter than usual if you think your dog is having a problem.

What is more problematic than walking your dog is bringing it in the car with you on a hot day. Every summer and when there’s an unexpected heat wave, far too many dogs perish in hot cars, even on days when the ambient temperature is in the 70s and it does not seem too hot for your dog. Next time you get into your car after it’s been sitting in the sun for a few minutes, note how hot it feels. A panting and excited dog can add to the already soaring temperature in the car, and it can become overheated in just a few minutes, even if the windows are partially open. A pet can literally poach to death.

The best treatment for this is to keep your dog home while you do errands, even if it’s only to run inside a building for a few minutes. If necessity demands that you bring your dog with you, try to bring along another person and keep the air conditioner running while you do your errands.

Symptoms of a dog that is overheating might include panting excessively, drooling, glazed eyes, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, bright-red tongue, incoordination, seizures and collapse. If you notice any of these symptoms in a dog that is in a hot car or a hot environment, remove the dog and get him or her to a veterinarian immediately. Check for an emergency veterinarian if it’s after hours. If possible, and also if you can do this safely, cool the dog off with water or put rubbing alcohol on the pads of the paws.

If you come across a dog in a stranger’s locked car with the windows up, and you feel the dog is in immediate danger of heatstroke, call 911 or animal control. After you have called them, if you determine that they cannot make it in time, break a window. California law permits this—in California, you are protected from civil or criminal liability if you break the windows of the car for the purpose of rescuing the dog. The text for California Assembly Bill 797, which legislates allowing an emergency responder as well as civilians to rescue an animal, may be read here. An article further explaining protection via California’s Good Samaritan law is available here.