Dogs at risk of overheating too on hot days

WASHINGTON – As soon as the temperatures climb into the mid-80s, the calls come in, one right after the other.

A dog left in a car, a dog left in a yard without shade. And sometimes, the dogs don’t survive.

Daniel D’eramo, senior humane law enforcement officer with the Washington Humane Society, says most of the calls for dogs left in hot cars don’t involve “bad dog owners.”

“They are the people who love to take their dogs with them everywhere,” he says. Often these dog owners are own vacation or are seeing the sights in D.C. and they stop at a museum or at an attraction leaving their dog in the car with the window cracked, believing that the dog will be fine.

D’eramo says that’s a potentially deadly mistake.

“You crack your windows. But the vehicle isn’t moving, and there’s no air exchange. So it’s still just stagnant, hot — just getting hotter — air in the vehicle,” D’eramo says.

Shade isn’t much help either. D’eramo and the team of humane officers often see people leave their pet in a hot yard with a dog house. They assume the dog house, with its shady interior, will provide a cool resting spot.

“That’s not the case,” D’eramo says. He remembers going to one yard where the owner provided a plastic dog shelter. “It was 100 degrees in the yard. It was 104 degrees inside the dog house.”

That dog was impounded.

If dog owners’ routines include getting in a long walk, a play session at the dog park or a run, D’eramo has advice for days like this: Leave the pooch behind.

He knows owners don’t want to leave Fido behind while they go for a run.

“You love it. Your dog loves it. Everyone has a good time.” But he says, “today is not that day.”

Any dog can run into trouble within minutes on a day when the temps soar. And by the time someone notice a dog in distress, the result could be a trip to the veterinary emergency room.

“Overheating can cause, unfortunately irreversible damage. Yes, you can get the dog’s body temperature down, but sometimes the damage is already done,” D’eramo says.

D’eramo urges owners to learn the signs their dog is in trouble. Heavy panting is the first signal that a dog needs a break. If a dog starts salivating so heavily that the drool is collecting around its face and chest, that’s another clue that the dog is struggling. And if the dog seems disoriented or stumbles, seek medical attention immediately.

“This is the sort of thing where minutes matter,” says D’eramo.

Every dog is susceptible to overheating. But brachycephalic dogs, the ones with the “smooshed” faces, are especially vulnerable, says D’eramo. He explains even under cool conditions, they can have trouble breathing.

“The dogs that snort when they breathe, those are the ones that have the most trouble” in the heat. D’eramo says that includes breeds like pugs, Pekinese, bulldogs and Boston terriers.

D’eramo says anyone who spots a dog in a locked car should call 911 or the Washington Humane Society at 202-576-6664 or 202-723-5730 for help.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.


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