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Hot as a dog

Published June 03. 2010 05:00PM

There a lot of ways to describe the summer months.




That last one may seem like a stretch, but for Carbon County's canine citizens, it's only too true.

"Some people think that it has to be 80 degrees outside for them to start worrying about their dogs, but that's not the case," Susan Yaich, a member of the Carbon County Friends of Animals, said. "I try to warn everyone as early as the beginning of spring about the danger that heat presents to dogs."

Given that the area is usually on the receiving end of long, blustery winters and rain-soaked springs, residents sometimes take for granted that the much desired heat of summer isn't always harmless. Although humans need to be mindful of the sun's powerful rays, extra attention should be given to their four-legged friends.

"Dogs are mammals, and they react to heat similar to the way we do," Bruce May, the Carbon County animal warden, said. "Whatever you do for yourself to keep cool, you should, at the least, do for your pets."

Unlike humans, dogs can't sweat, dissipating their body heat instead through panting as well as through tiny pores on the pads of their feet. Owners are advised to be mindful of this latter point, especially when taking their dogs out for a summer walk.

"If a dog walks on hot macadam, the pads on the bottom of their feet will get burned, and they may get a mild heat stroke," Yaich said. "A good way to judge is to put your own bare foot on the ground. If it's too hot for you, it's too hot for the dog."

Yaich suggests taking longer walks in the evening, when the ground begins to cool. Water is essential during walks, regardless of the time of day, and should always be brought along. Dog-friendly canteens are a portable and convenient way to transport water, and can be purchased from a variety of retailers, including PetCo and Pet Supplies Plus.

Even when dogs are in the confines of their homes, heat remains a threat.

"Personally, I don't think that it's humane to have dogs out in the sun on a hot day," Yaich said. "Dog's that are outdoors in the summer need just as much shelter from the heat as they do from the cold in winter."

Insulated dog houses placed in cool, shady areas are the best location for dogs when outdoors. On exceptionally hot days, outdoor time should be limited and water readily available. Owners should avoid water bowls made out of stainless steel, as they conduct heat and can easily burn a dog's mouth.

In reality, the most dangerous place for a dog in the summertime is one that is a perennial pet favorite: the backseat of a car. At the height of summer, a hot car is tantamount to an oven.

"Leaving a dog in a car for even a few minutes is gambling with its life," Nicole Forsythe, president and CEO of United Animal Nations, said. "You can never guarantee how long it's going to take you to get back your car."

To help combat the number of accidental deaths, Forsythe and her organization run My Dog is Cool, a grassroots campaign dedicated to spreading awareness of the danger of leaving dogs inside cars. The campaign's website,, features a variety of resources, including a widget that tells owners when the weather is too hot for a doggie car ride based on Zip code.

"The saddest part of this issue is that the people bringing their dogs in the car with them are generally good, loving owners," Forsythe said. "They're a receptive audience, but there just seems to be a lack of perception about the dangers cars present."

Forsythe and her staff hope to spread information through fliers and posters available to print out and distribute on the My Dog is Cool website. So far, she claims, the owner response has been impressive.

"We have seen a lot of people using the information in a positive and informative way," she said. "Hopefully, people who see this message will decide to act differently in the future."

So in the summer months, make sure that the family's hot dogs lay in only one spot.

The barbecue.

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