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Summer is here and at Advanced Veterinary Care (AVC) we want you and your pet to enjoy the season.  At AVC, our primary mission is pet health and accident prevention.  For humans, summer often means road trips, camping, and hiking.  For pets however, those same activities can be harmful or even fatal.  Here are some tips to help keep your pet safe this summer.

Leave your pet home.  Trips to the vet, groomer, or pet store are obvious exceptions to this rule, but unless your dog is a service dog, they have no reason to accompany you when you run errands.  Leaving a dog unattended in the car is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.  The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes.  At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that's 110 degrees inside your vehicle.  Cracking the windows or leaving water with your pet does not mitigate the danger to your pet, and for Southern California pets the danger is year round.  Also, remember that leaving an unattended pet in the car in California is illegal and may be punishable with a fine and the removal of your pet for abuse or neglect.

Consider your pet.  The summer months can be brutal to your dog.  Dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than humans for several reasons.  One reason is that your dog is covered in fur, even though it may be short in some breeds.  This makes them heat up faster and makes it harder for them to cool off.  Once a dog’s temperature rises, it is hard for them to cool down.  Dogs do have sweat glands on their feet, but not on the rest of their body.  They rely on panting, a method of breathing out excess heat, to cool down their bodies.  This method is not as effective as sweating.  Some breeds are more susceptible to the heat than others.  Dogs with thick double-coats have a harder time beating the heat, and dogs with short muzzles (e.g., Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers) have smaller airways and less ability to exhale hot air.  A healthy four-year old German Shepard mix recently died after becoming overheated on a hike up Cowles Mountain in San Diego county.

Pay attention.  Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs may include heavy panting, drooling, hyperventilation, warm dry skin, rapid heartbeat, and fever.  In extreme cases, seizures, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and collapse can occur.  A frequent problem for dogs in the summer is burns and heat related damage to the paw pads.  Prior to walking or hiking with your dog, place your palm on the ground.  If you cannot place your hand on the ground for at least 5 seconds, the ground is too hot and you should not walk your dog on that surface.  Monitor your pet’s paws during exercise and look for limping.  Try to stay in the shade and avoid blacktop or asphalt.  Limit walks and exercise to mornings or evenings, when the ground is not as hot.  Provide plenty of water for your pet, during and after exercise.

Finally, if you suspect your pet may have a heat related issue, bring them to a veterinarian immediately.  If you have any questions regarding how to keep your pet safe this summer, or any other season, please do not hesitate to contact one of the doctors or staff at AVC.  Remember that at AVC, our first line of defense is always prevention.