The record-breaking heat wave that has been keeping Americans indoors or cooling off in the water is not letting up over the holiday weekend. With temperatures soaring over the triple digits in many regions, what might normally be considered a “hot day” can become unbearable for some people.
Desert locations in the Southwest could reach 120 degrees with Las Vegas reaching an all-time record high of 117. Phoenix could possibly top the glitzy city where “What happens in Vegas…” with a temperature of 118 or higher. However, Death Valley may reach a scorching 130 degrees for the first time in 100 years.
In 1913, the desolate desert of Death Valley National Park, now a tourist attraction for many, especially for people from Germany and France looking for some warmth, the heat rose to a sweltering 134 degrees.
With this summer’s record-breaking heat wave, many Americans are looking for a way to beat the heat. As the holiday weekend approaches, there will be even more of us taking advantage of the extra time away from work, the skyrocketing temperatures, and some time with family and friends including man’s best four-legged friend.
While Fido has become an ever-increasing acceptable member of the family, many people still do not understand the importance of treating their pet like a cherished loved one. Sure, some little ones are dressed up in tutus, carried in Gucci bags or fed the finest cuisine, but each year, thousands of beloved dogs are left in cars to perish in the heat of the day, others are left to ride in open vehicles, and some are swept away by fast-moving currents and tides.
This year, before heading out for a weekend getaway, or even running a few errands, consider some of these tips from the American Kennel Club (AKC):
- NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A VEHICLE – Even if the windows are left open a crack, or the temperature is moderate (70%), it can rise very quickly inside leaving your dog in distress within minutes and causing heatstroke, brain damage, and even death
- Provide plenty of water – ensure your dog always has access to cool, fresh water
- Outside dogs need shade – doghouses do not necessarily provide good protection from the sun as they can trap heat making it worse on your pet
- Exercise in the early morning or later evening – avoid vigorous activities during the hottest part of the day, take walks or hikes when the sun is less intense
- Avoid hot asphalt, sand and rocks – pavement and other hot ground can burn your dog’s sensitive paws, try to avoid any prolonged exposure
- Apply sunscreen to light-colored dogs – if your dog is white or has short hair and pink skin, apply sunscreen to his nose and ears 30 minutes prior to sun exposure
If you are going to be taking your pet to the ocean or a lake, the AKC offers a special list of advice when heading out to water-related activities, including:
- Be aware of your dog drinking seawater – do not allow your pet to drink the saltwater, it will make him sick
- Rinse off your pet after swimming in the ocean – minerals and salt can damage his coat
- Not all dogs are swimmers – most dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim and others do not enjoy it and may hate the water; but conscious and considerate of your dog’s preferences and skills and do not try to “force” him to swim
- Do not throw your dog into the water – if you are trying to teach your dog to swim, coax him by calling his name, starting out in shallow water, encourage him with toys or treats, or let him follow a more experienced dog that he is familiar with
- Remember that swimming is strenuous – do not let your dog overdo it, he may become exhausted while he is in the water, becoming distressed
- Be aware of tides and strong currents – if swimming at the beach or in a river, beware of tides and currents that could carry your dog away
- Pool safety – if you are swimming with you dog in your own pool, make certain he is aware of how to get out using the steps or a ladder
- Never leave a dog unattended near water
If your dog begins to exhibit heavy panting, excessive drooling, rapid breathing, has bright red gums and tongue, or is standing 4-square, posting or spreading in an attempt to maintain balance, he may be in the first stages of heatstroke and you should take action. You can apply ice packs to the groin, hose him down with water, apply rubbing alcohol to his paw pads, allow him to lick ice chips or drink small amounts of water, or get him to drink Pedialyte to restore his electrolytes. You need to do anything you can to get him to cool down.
More advanced stages of heatstroke are lethargy and unwillingness to move, white or blue gums, uncontrollable urination or defecation, labored and noisy breathing, and shock.
During the cooling process, you should be checking your pet’s temperature; once it has stabilized between 100 – 102 degrees, you can stop the process. If you cannot get him to cool down and you see signs of advanced heatstroke, take the dog to your veterinarian immediately.
Some dogs, those with the short-faces, such as Boxers and Pekingese have a more difficult time in the heat because they cannot pant as efficiently as longer-faced dogs. Since panting is how dogs cool themselves, these shorter-faced dogs should be kept indoors in an air-conditioned space during the hottest parts of the day.
However you choose to beat the heat this summer, make sure you take care of man’s best friend. Keep in mind that as the sun reaches temperatures of 120 and more, the pavement can reach in excess of 200 degrees; tiny paws can suffer severe burns.
By Dawn Cranfield
US News Special Correspondent