DEAR DIDI: I noticed when I was walking my English Bulldog the other day he refused to stay on the sidewalk. Can you tell me about temperatures for walks and what I should watch for when I take her in the car? - Worried Mommy in Manteca
DEAR WORRIED MOMMY: My compliments to you for noticing your dog’s discomfort! I have spent years, as have all veterinarians, counseling and warning dog owners about the dangers of summer heat. I decided I wanted to give more specific information for this week’s column and was amazed to find surprisingly little information available. I finally came across some experimental military studies done in 1947 on live animals with regard to thermal burns. I am quite certain that studies like this have not been repeated since then due to possible cruelty to animals. Here is a brief synopsis of their findings:
· 120°F: the dog feels pain at this point
· 140°F: burns, permanent damage, and scarring appear after one minute of continuous contact
· 150°F: burns and blistering occur rapidly at this point
These temperatures seem very high so I decided to conduct my own unofficial survey of pavement temperatures. I went to Harbor Freight in Stockton and the very helpful employee directed me to a laser thermometer. It is about the size of a small cell phone and hangs on a lanyard around my neck. For the last few days I have been having tons of fun measuring the surface temperatures everywhere I go! The results have been pretty amazing. I found a decorative tile area of a popular strip shopping mall to measure 126 degrees F at 10 o’clock in the morning where the high that day ended up only being 86 degrees F. So, obviously, that same tile would have been significantly hotter several hours later had I been able to return to measure it. We need to be considerate of when and where we ask our dogs to walk with unprotected feet! Even a sandy pathway on a hike can exhibit higher than healthy temperatures for your canine companion especially if your dog just finished dunking in the river. His pads are now softened by the water and more vulnerable to those hot surfaces. It is possible to socialize a dog to wearing ‘shoes’ so that they can enjoy outings with you.
Car temperatures are a much more serious and life threatening situation. Dogs cannot escape the rising temperatures in your car and their ability to sweat is limited. Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short, wide heads like pugs, English bulldogs, Boston terriers) are at a much higher risk for hyperthermia. The rate at which the temperatures rise inside your car will vary slightly based on whether the car is parked in full sun, partial shade, full shade, wind temperatures and velocity, and current outside temperatures. Here are some temperatures to keep in mind and then some first aid measures.
Outside Inside Car
75 degrees F 118 degrees F
77 F 123 F
81 F 138 F
90 F 143 F
94 F 145 F
If your dog is found to have suffered pad damage with blistering or worse you should immediately get him to grass or carry him if possible. Apply cool wash cloths and keep the area clean until you can get to your veterinarian. The doctor will then evaluate to see how deep the burns went, show you how to wrap the pads while they heal and check for dehydration. If your dog is suffering hyperthermia from a hot car then his body needs to be cooled slowly. Provide air ventilation by fanning and pour cool water (not ice water) over him. Ice cubes can be rubbed around the dog’s lips and armpits while transporting to a veterinarian. Prevent this emergency by never leaving your dog in a car once the outdoor temperatures have reached 70 degrees. My dog needs to travel with me everywhere I go so I have the Viper system installed in my Jeep which allows my engine and air conditioning to run without the keys. The doors and windows can’t be accidentally unlocked by my dog from the inside and I can check the temperature in the car with my key fob from a mile away. It was well worth the money.
I hope everyone has a fun, but safe and healthy, summer with their dogs!
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University, owner of California Canine, and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Dear Didi. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.