Outside safety for dogs depends on their age, breed, size

KXAN – AUSTIN (KXAN) — Man's best friend will likely need some extra care and attention as summer temperatures begin to sizzle this week. Rain in April, May and early June has led to a lot of moisture in the ground, which will be slowly evaporating over the next few weeks. That makes the humidity higher. Add near-triple digit heat on top of the humidity and the combination is dangerous for pets to be outdoors.

Unfortunately, there's no set formula for what's safe and what's not when playing outdoors with your pets. That makes the situation more dangerous for dogs, which have a tendency to not show stress or exhaustion until it's often too late. Overweight and older dogs need extra attention, as they're more susceptible to heat.

Dr. Angie Whitworth with West Lynn Veterinary Clinic says brachycephalic dogs are at a higher risk for overheating: these are "squishy-faced" dogs, like Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, boxers, bulldogs and pugs. Pups use their long nasal pathways and panting to cool themselves down. Having a broad, short skull means these dogs can't cool themselves as efficiently as "regular, mixed-breed dogs."

The safest basic tips are:

  • Avoid having your pet outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you have to leave your dog alone while you're at work, make sure outside dogs have a doggy door and access to plenty of water so they can come in the house to cool down.
  • Put sunscreen on animals with light or white colored fur. 30 SPF for humans is just fine. Just make sure your pup can't lick it off, as ingesting the sunscreen may upset their stomach.
  • If you're going on a long walk, early mornings are safest, as the pavement hasn't heated up for the day yet.
  • Never leave your pet in the car. Even if it's in the shade, even if it's only for a few minutes. Internal car temperatures can skyrocket in minutes and can be highly dangerous for animals. Dogs should have an internal temperature between 101-102. Anything higher than 104 is cause for major concern.

If exercising with your dog outside, it's important to remember that they can only sweat through their paws. Hot pavement can scald their paws and keep them from cooling down efficiently. Dr. Whitworth sees ulcerations and erosions on paw pads that have been on overheated pavement. Walking on grass is the best way to avoid this problem.

Also, it's best for the next few weeks if you take your own water and bowl to give your dog while out walking. Dr. Whitworth is seeing a lot of gastrointestinal problems from dogs that are ingesting water from area lakes, rivers and streams. These bodies of water have seen higher runoff lately, so bacteria levels have increased.

Access to fresh water is great for your pet, no matter what time of year. If your dog gets overheated, give them tap water instead of ice water. Don't pour water into your pet's mouth if they cannot drink themselves. Placing soaked washcloths on their necks, armpits and groins and fanning them can help cool them down.

If you see a dog or other pet that is locked in a vehicle with no access to air conditioning, call 311. If you see a dog or other pet that is clearly overheating and in danger, call 911. Learn about the differences here.