Q: This summer has been unusually hot in our area. Although I walk my dog, Barkley, early morning and late evening, the pavement is often surprisingly warm. How do I know if it’s too hot, especially late in the day?
A: You’ll know the pavement is dangerous if you can’t stand on it in bare feet or press the back of your hand against it for 10 seconds.
Asphalt quickly heats up on hot days. When the air temperature is 77, asphalt can reach 125 degrees, which destroys skin within a minute. At 87, asphalt can rapidly reach 143 degrees. You’ve heard about pavement so hot it can fry an egg? That’s 131 degrees, which fries an egg in five minutes. Just think how that would burn Barkley’s feet.
Even worse than hot pavement is hot air, because it can cause heat stroke and death. Heat stroke occurs most often on warm days when a dog has been sitting in the sun, exercised or confined inside a car, even in the shade with the windows open.
The risk is highest for puppies and senior dogs, overweight dogs, those with flat faces, dogs with respiratory or heart disease, and those with long, dense or dark hair. Dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures well, and to make matters worse, it takes from two weeks to two months for them to acclimate to warm weather.
Initial signs of heat stroke include excessive panting and rapid heartbeat. If this occurs and Barkley’s temperature tops 105 degrees, cool him by spraying his entire body, including belly and armpits, with cool water.
Don’t apply ice packs or immerse him in an ice water bath, because they constrict his blood vessels, making it harder for his body to dissipate excess heat. Drape a cool, wet towel across his body and rush him to the veterinarian, seating him near the car’s air conditioner vent.
Half of all dogs with heat stroke die, but research shows dogs are more likely to survive if they are cooled before going to the animal hospital and if they arrive within 90 minutes of the onset of heat stroke.
Editor’s Note: The warm weather is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Keep in mind these summer hazards and tips for keeping your dog safe in the summer.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.