Health & Wellness

Keep Furry Friends Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The dog days of summer are here and with the rise in temperatures comes the need to keep pets cool and safe.

“If it is hot for you and me, it’s hot for your pet, too,” said South Plainfield resident and animal activist Adriana Bayone. “The difference is they do not have a voice and cannot tell you they do not feel okay.”

Bayone advises strongly against leaving dogs – or any animal for that matter – in a hot car. “A lot of people think they can just put the window down a little bit – that doesn't work,” she said. “Many do not realize just how hot it can get in the car.”

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According to www.heatkills.org, on a sunny, 70-degree day, the temperature inside a car after a half-hour can reach 104 degrees; after an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. On a day when the temperature ranges between 80- and 100-degrees the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130- to 172-degrees.

The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) reports that, each summer, countless dogs and cats suffer needlessly or die in cars that become ovens when it is hot outside.

“Though it may seem cool outside, the sun can raise the temperature inside your car to 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows rolled down…[and] on an average summer day, the temperature in your car can reach a scalding 160 degrees inside in a matter of minutes,” states NJSPCA. “The buildup of heat inside of a car can kill an animal very quickly. A pet can die of heat prostration within 15 minutes.”

Currently, 26 states throughout the country have enacted laws to help prevent the tragic deaths of animals left in parked vehicles; New Jersey is currently one of only two states, however, in which leaving a pet unattended under dangerous conditions is a crime, punishable by a fine of $250 to $1,000 and/or six months in jail; however, if the pet dies, or there is a prior conviction, the charge becomes more would be more severe.

“If you need to run some errands, leave the furry ones at home,” according to www.NJSPCA.org.

According to Bayone, excessive exercise in hot, humid weather along with long walks during the peak hours of the day can also be dangerous to dog’s health. She suggests keeping the pace slow; stopping  frequently; always having plenty of water on hand; and, when possible, taking walks during the cooler times of the day.

“Try walking in the early morning or late in the evening. If that doesn't work for your schedule, try to keep walks as short as possible,” Bayone said, adding,  “If the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, then it is too hot for the dog’s; the pads on their paws can get burnt.”

While it is dangerous – and in some places illegal - to leave a dog outside when the temperature drops below 35 degrees, it is just as unsafe to do so in excessive heat.

“Dogs are social animals, so like humans, they don’t thrive if they spend too much time alone. However, if you must leave your dog outside, make sure to provide the proper conditions, including shelter from rain, storms, and strong winds, and plenty of food and water,” said Bayone, adding, “Check on them frequently to make sure they are not in need of medical attention and, above all, make sure they are safe.”According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs become dehydrated and overheated, but, unlike their human companions, they cannot cool themselves down the same. Although they have a limited amount of sweat glands in their paws, canines rely mostly on panting and vasodilation, the expansion of blood vessels, to cool down.

Unfortunately, panting, vasodilation, and limited sweating are not as efficient at cooling dogs down as sweating is for humans,” states the AKC website, warning that excessive heat exposure can result in a dog suffering from heat stress, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat stress and heat stroke include heavy panting, dehydration, excessive drooling, red gums, rapid or irregular heart rate, muscle tremors, lack of coordination, unconsciousness, temperatures above 105 degrees, and, in some cases, even seizures. If left untreated for too long, heat stroke can be fatal.

“The signs of heat stroke in dogs are much different than that of humans. In some cases, it can just seem like maybe the dog ate something it shouldn't have,” said Bayone “If any of these symptoms present themselves, especially after the dog has been out in the heat, make sure the dog gets the proper attention it needs.”

Overall, pet owners, said Bayone, should be cautious and take all the proper steps to ensure their furry friends stay safe and cool when the temperatures rise. “We should all be more aware of pet safety and can make a difference knowing that we are their voice,” she said.

If you see a dog in a hot car, contact the nearest police department or division of animal control and stay with the dog until help arrives; record details such as license plate, color, make and model; and, if applicable, alert the business’ management.

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