Living in Florida during the summer months can be a hot topic (pun intended) for you and your pets. With temperatures reaching the high nighties and on some days even higher, it is important to know what steps to take to ensure that your pets do not become over heated. We all love to take our pets with us wherever we go, but leaving them in your car, even with the windows down, even for just a couple of minutes, is not only foolish, IT IS ILLEGAL. Yes you read that right! The next time you see an animal trapped inside a hot car, even with the windows "cracked", you are witnessing a crime. I have talked with several law enforcement officers and they said leaving an animal in a parked car, unattended, with no shelter from the heat in Florida, is a third degree felony and punishable by up to 5 years in prison or $10,000 fine, or both. This is addressed in the Florida Statutes 828.12 relating to animal cruelty. For more information regarding the Florida Animal Cruelty Statutes visit the Animal Legal and Historical Center website.
Here are some sobering facts, courtesy of the The Humane Society of the United States:
- Your dog's normal temperature is approximately 101F (38C) - at a temperature of 105F (40C) your dog will be suffering moderate heatstroke and at 108F (42C) dog heatstroke can be severe and potentially deadly
- When it's 85F (29C) outside, the inside of your car can reach 102F within 10 minutes; 20 minutes later and the temperature is likely to be 120F
- Even when it's only 72F (22C) outside, the car can heat up to 105F within 30 minutes
Leaving the car windows open has a negligible effect on both the inside temperature and the rate at which the car heats up
Your dog is designed to conserve heat and only has sweat glands on his paw pads and his nose
Your dog regulates his temperature by panting - expelling warm air and inhaling cool air. In a hot car he will be breathing in hot air and so fighting a losing battle against heatstroke
Even if you get your dog out of the car and cool him down, he may have suffered long term damage to his brain and internal organs
And what about pets who are "outside" pets? Just having shade and a bowl of water may not be enough in a Florida's summer heat. When the ambient temperature is very warm, the water dish doesn't have to be in the sun to heat the water up enough were a pet will not drink it. Dogs and cats vary in their sense of taste/temperature, but fresh cool water is of course, the top choice for all animals.
Here are a few tips to help keep you pet cool and safe:
- Water Keep water in the shade and make sure it is fresh every day. Secure the water dish to avoid an accidental spill. If possible, have fresh "on demand" water available, such as a hose bib waterer.
- A refreshing cool down or a "bath" without soap. Use a garden hose to wet down your dog or use a cool, very wet towel to wet down your dog or cat for evaporative cooling. Once animals figure this out, many enjoy this quick water cool down.
- Poolside For animals that love the water, an inexpensive child's pool make an excellent "on demand" swimming pool for pets. Caution is advised - make sure that the pets are able to use the pool without risk of drowning (puppies, children).
- A sprinkle a day Setting up a sprinkler or drip hose works well for some animals. This keeps the water running and cool, allowing for a fresh water source on demand. Observe your pet to see how they react to a sprinkler or running water; Do Not assume everything will be fine.
- Ouch - hot feet alert If you will be walking with your pet, remember that while paw pads are "tough" they are also sensitive, and can be burned while walking on hot pavement and asphalt. If possible, walk on grass or dirt, and check your pet's paw pads to make sure there isn't any redness or pain.
- Good grooming is important for your pet's health and comfort. Speak with PAAH's groomer or one of the Doctors to find out what is best for your pet. A full shave may not be the answer, depending on your pet's coat/breed, and caution is advised for white and light-skinned pets as they can get sunburned.
- Made in the shade If your pet must be outside, make sure that shade is available at all times. While home, be sure to check the area your pet is in - as the sun changes, is the shade still readily available?
- Loud summer noises If hot summer thunderstorms or fireworks are a possibility in your area, is your pet safe? If possible, arrange to have a friend or neighbor check on your pet during extreme weather (heat and storm activity) to make sure that your pet hasn't done anything out of the ordinary due to stress or fear that could risk injury or heat-related problems.
Here are some of the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs
- Excessive panting
- Your dog may have red gums but if your dog has become really ill his gums may turn blue
- Your dog may be very anxious
- Your dog maybe salivating
- A high heart rate is also a symptom of this condition
- If your dog has had a severe reaction to the heat he may collapse and suffer from shock
- Immediately remove your dog from the source of heat
- Take your dog to the PAAH immediately. PAAH has an after hours emergency number (407) 404-3210 that you can call to reach the doctor on-call
- Your aim is to reduce your dog's body heat as fast as you can
- Gently immerse your dog into a bath of tepid water and spray your dog with tepid water from a shower, pay special attention to your dog's neck, head and face.
- Don't use cold water or wet towels and sheets - use a fan to fan your dog's body and allow the air flow to flow all over your dog's body.
- You should let your dog drink as much water as he wants BUT in small quantities) add some salt to the water.
- Continue spraying your dog to get his temperature down.