DEAR DIDI: With summer coming can you please remind people about walking their dogs at certain times of the day? -Very Concerned Dog Lover
DEAR DOG LOVER: 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 a matter of dogs wearing fur coats and overheating, although that is also a realistic concern. I did a thorough study last year on ambient temperatures and the effect on surfaces your dog might encounter, such as the pavement or back of a pickup truck. People assume that the pads on dogs’ feet 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 rapidly at 150 degrees. None of this may make sense without an idea of exactly what the temperatures are while walking our 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.
On average, white cement sidewalks are typically 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the surrounding air. The variance depended on whether or not the sun was directly overhead or not. Therefore, at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, when it is 95 degrees outside, we found that white sidewalks were measuring around 125 degrees. This is hot enough to be painful on your dog’s feet. Black top roads measured as high as 155, so if you are walking your dog across roads, he is now at risk for permanent blistering and 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. Wonder why your dog is pulling to shady areas or insisting on walking on the neighbor’s lawn? He is trying to avoid pain.
There are times when we need to walk our dogs even at the hottest part of summer days, such as, to go to a vet appointment, traveling on vacation, etc. Search and rescue dogs don’t always get a choice of time of day and weather to work in, so they are trained to wear protective shoes. Humans wear shoes to aid in balance, traction and heat protection. 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 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 when exercised improperly 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 hand the leash out the door to someone.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University 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 Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email email@example.com