DEAR DIDI: With summer coming can you please remind people about walking their dogs at certain times of the day? – Very Concerned Dog Lover in Manteca
DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you for bringing up this subject. I have written on it before, but it is always worth reminding people of the dangers of heat on our beloved canines! It isn’t just about leaving dogs in hot cars … what about taking them for walks on hot days?
I do a thorough study each year on ambient air temperatures and their effect on surfaces your dog might encounter. I typically measure white pavement, black asphalt, leather seats, beds of pickup trucks, grass and brick. People assume that the pads on dogs’ paws are somehow tougher. A dog begins to feel pain when the pavement reaches 120 degrees. At 140 degrees your dog begins to suffer permanent damage and scarring after one minute of continuous contact. Rapid burns and blistering happens almost instantly at 150 degrees! None of this may make sense to you without an idea of exactly what the temperatures are while walking your dogs.
I think everyone has experienced the extreme discomfort of hopping into the car onto leather seats on a hot day! Surfaces are not the same temperature as the air around us. The color and material of the object have a dramatic effect on how much heat the item retains or reflects. It also matters whether or not the object is in direct sun, angled sun, light shade or deep shade. Using a laser thermometer, I measure the surfaces mentioned every hour on the hour, starting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I am always shocked at the results! On average, white cement sidewalks are typically 20-30 degrees hotter than the surrounding air. The variance depended on whether or not the sun is directly overhead or not. Therefore, at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, when it is 95 degrees outside, I found that white sidewalks are measuring around 125 degrees. This is hot enough to be painful on your dog’s feet. Black top roads measure as high as155, so if you are walking your dog across roads, he is now at risk for permanent blistering damage to his paws! Leather seats and the back of a pick-up truck were also 150 degrees and higher. Watch the pavement around your swimming pools too. If your dog’s pads are wet and soft they are more susceptible to heat damage. If you wonder why your dog is pulling on the leash to get to shady areas or insisting on walking on the neighbor’s lawn, he may be trying to avoid pain.
There are times when we need to walk our dogs in less than ideal conditions to go to a vet appointment, travel on vacation, etc. Search and rescue dogs don’t always get a choice in the time of day and weather to work in, so they are trained to wear protective shoes. Check out www.neopaws.com for serious, custom fit shoes that will stay on even while playing Frisbee.
If you are thinking about hiring a dog walker, I would interview him or her first. I would ask the prospective walker about their opinion and philosophy on exercising dogs. I would expect that they have liability insurance and a Pet CPR certification from the Red Cross. A competent dog walker understands the limitations of age, breed, chronic health issues, and environmental influences, at the very least. Certain canine breeds are extremely sensitive to heat and may suffer heat exhaustion quickly when exercised improperly even on an 85 degree day. Dog walking is a valuable service, but not if your dog’s health and mental well-being is jeopardized!
Please think twice before you walk out the door with your dog or hand the leash to someone.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com