As temperatures rise in the Texas heat, it’s not just us humans who feel the impact of the scorching sun. Our four-legged companions are equally susceptible to the dangers of extreme heat. Just like we take precautions to stay safe and comfortable during hot weather, it’s vital to remember that our pets rely on us to protect them from summer’s perils.
Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are heat-related conditions in dogs, but they represent different stages of heat stress and vary in severity and symptoms.
|Cause: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when a dog’s body becomes overheated due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures or excessive physical activity in hot conditions.
|Cause: A heatstroke is a severe form of heat-related illness that occurs when a dog’s body temperature rises to dangerous levels, overwhelming its ability to cool down.
|Symptoms: Signs of heat exhaustion include –
– Excessive panting & drooling
– Rapid/irregular heartbeat,
– Lethargy or weakness
– Loss of coordination
– Gum color change: Bright red gums and tongue
– Vomiting or diarrhea
– Glazed eyes
|Symptoms: Signs of heatstroke include all the symptoms of heat exhaustion but are often more severe.
Additionally, dogs with heatstroke may experience collapse, seizures, loss of consciousness, or coma.
|Body temperature: Elevated body temperature, typically not exceeding 104°F (40°C).
|Body temperature: Heatstroke is characterized by a body temperature >104°F (40°C) and can reach as high as 106°F (41°C) or more.
What do I do if I see a dog in a hot car?
If you see a dog in a hot car, it’s important to take immediate action to help prevent heatstroke or other serious health issues. Here’s what you can do:
- Assess the situation: Determine the severity of the dog’s condition by asking the following –
- Where is the car parked? Under direct sunlight?
- What is the current temperature outside?
- Is the dog showing any signs of stress and symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
- Is the owner nearby?
- Act quickly: Time is crucial in these situations, as the temperature inside a parked car can rise rapidly. On a warm day, the temperature inside a vehicle can increase by 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) within just 10 minutes. If the dog appears in immediate danger or distress, acting immediately to save its life may be necessary.
- Notify authorities: Contact local law enforcement or animal control to report the situation. Ensure you have the exact location, description of the car, and license plate number, if possible.
- Document the situation: Take photos or videos of the dog in the car as evidence. This can be helpful for authorities!
- Spread awareness: Notify nearby businesses or individuals about the situation to raise awareness and potentially locate the car’s owner. They may be able to make an announcement or assist in finding the owner.
- Continue to monitor the dog: If you can, stay near the car to keep an eye on the dog until help arrives. Note any changes in its condition and update the authorities when they come.
Remember, dogs can suffer from heatstroke and potentially die inside a hot car in a few minutes. Taking immediate action and involving the appropriate authorities is crucial to ensure the dog’s safety and well-being.
Unfortunately, legislation to protect Good Samaritans who rescue domestic companion animals from motor vehicles by granting civil immunity under certain circumstances (HB 3756/SB 2421) failed in the 2023 session. “Good Samaritan” laws like this one have been enacted in 14 states which require rescuers to take a number of commonsense steps before entering the vehicle.
What do I do if I see a tethered dog with no shelter?
Some laws in Texas make it illegal to leave a tethered dog outside in extreme weather without adequate shelter, food, and water. This includes cruelty to non-livestock animals and unlawful restraint of a dog. Some cities also have specific ordinances to protect pets in extreme weather conditions.
The Safe Outdoor Dogs Act protects outdoor dogs by:
- Defines adequate shelter to protect dogs from exposure to extreme temperatures and standing water and ensures the dog can stand, turn around, and lie down.
- Requires access to drinkable water.
- Prohibits the use of chain restraints which cause pain and injuries.
For resources regarding the law in both English and Spanish, please visit https://www.thln.org/a_brand_new_day.
What do I do if I see an outdoor dog with no shelter or an animal confined?
If you see a dog in a back yard without any water or shelter and there are heat advisory warnings, you can ask your local animal control to do a welfare check.
It goes without saying, but never confine an animal to a crate in direct sunlight without shade when the animal is subjected to inclement weather, or your actions could rise to the level of animal cruelty.
Can my dog’s paws get burned?
Your dog’s paw pads are tough, but they are not shoes. Dogs’ paw pads are sensitive and can easily burn on hot pavement. Asphalt and concrete can heat up significantly, especially on hot summer days. Walking on such surfaces can cause painful burns and blisters on your dog’s paws.
Take these precautions when walking your dog during hot weather:
- Test the pavement: If you’re in doubt about whether it’s too hot to walk your dog, check the surface of the pavement with your bare hand. If you can’t comfortably hold your palm on the surface for 10 seconds then your dog’s paws are at risk of getting burnt. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog!
- Walk during cooler times: Schedule walks during the early morning or late evening when the pavement is cooler. Avoid walking during the hottest parts of the day.
- Use protective gear: Consider using booties or paw wax to protect your dog’s paws from the heat. Booties provide a barrier between their paws and the hot surface.
- Walk on grass or shaded areas: Opt for grassy or shaded routes instead of hot pavement. This will help keep your dog’s paws cool and minimize the risk of burns.
If you’re worried about how to protect your dog’s paws from the heat without disrupting their routine you can get them some shoes. They’re an ideal solution if you live somewhere that doesn’t have much shade or many grassy surfaces. Bear in mind that boots take some getting used to for most dogs, so be patient and start off slow, by just putting them on for short intervals at a time.
What about grooming my dog?
Although a dog’s coat keeps them warm, it also protects against the sun’s harmful rays. Dogs can get sunburn on any part of their body. However, it’s much more common in areas with thin fur or no fur.Before deciding to give your dog a summertime fur cut, consider the potential benefits of their coat! Always consult a professional dog groomer who can provide specific trimming suggestions based on your dog’s breed.
Explore alternatives, such as using cooling wraps or mats to help them stay cool.
Remember, by adopting preventive measures and incorporating simple but effective safety practices, we can create a safer environment for our furry friends and offer them the care they deserve during these extreme weather conditions.
What is I render aid to a dog suffering a heat-related illness?
You are protected from liability. In 2011, THLN passed a law (HB 2471, authors Rep. Larry Phillips and Sen. Robert Deuell) that limits civil liability of a person, an animal control agency, or an animal control agency employee who renders aid to an injured or distressed animal from civil action brought as a result of seeking or providing such care.
*Updated as of June 2023