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July 26, 2008

Dog Days of Summer – Top Tips for Keeping Your Pet SAFE!

Unrestaineddogsareahazard This summer keep your pet safe. Here are the top six tips to keeping your pet safe while traveling this summer.

In case you didn’t know this about me, I ride horses. I ride them twice a week and teach classes to kids as well. Every day I go to the stables, there is this same blue pickup truck parked in the parking lot with the back window open and the side windows part-way down. Inside sit an australian shepherd and a little papillon. They sit patiently every day for their owner to come back to the car, even when the outside temperatures reach the 90s and above.

The owner must have a death wish for these dogs. There will come a sad day when these pups just don’t make it, because the temperature will soar above livable levels. According to Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW), even if it’s only 78 degrees outside, cars parked in the shade can heat up to over 90 degrees, and those in the sun can reach 160 degrees. I’m not sure people realize the dangers of vehicles in the car.

Oven_dog Here are some “beat the heat” tips for you and your pet while you travel this summer:
1. Leave your dog at home on warm days.

2. On trips with your pet, bring plenty of fresh drinking water and bowl.

3. Don't let dogs ride loose in pick-up truck beds. The hot metal can burn a dog's paws, the sun and flying debris can hurt the dog, the dog can accidentally be thrown out of the truck if the brakes are suddenly applied, and the dog can jump out if scared or upon seeing something interesting to chase. Instead, use a crate to create a safer space for the dog if you can't fit the dog inside the truck cab.

4. Take the dog into the shade, an air conditioned area, or to the vet if you see signs of heat exhaustion, which include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness, or lack of coordination. To lower body temperature gradually, give the animal water to drink, place a cold towel or ice pack on the head, neck and chest, and/or immerse the dog in cool (not cold) water. Call your veterinarian.

If you see a pet in a vehicle on a hot day, take immediate action:
5. Note the car make, model, color and tag number, then go to the nearest stores and ask the managers to page the owner.

6. Call the police, which usually can respond much faster than can animal control departments. The police have the capability to enter the vehicle and rescue the pet.

My dog loves to ride in my car. I like to take him everywhere with me. On a particularly hot day, my dog was traveling with me in my car but he was also joining me outside the car whenever I parked and got out. I think the heat was getting to him because he was looking a little peaked after a few stops.

My dog is also sort of famous for his intestinal problems. After all our driving around, I stopped and tried to pull him out, across the front seats. His belly started heaving and I freaked out and pulled him harder. Not quickly enough, because he emptied his stomach all over the driver’s seat. And I have perforated leather seats… perfect to let all the goop seep into the little holes. After getting it detailed the next day, he happened to think my passenger seat needed to match and promptly puked on that one.

So that story brings me to a different pet safety item. Be sure your dogs are secured in your car and in their proper place. For example, the front seat is not the best place for them. If you hit your brakes, the animal can fly forward through the windshield and be killed, as well as become a dangerous projectile within the car and possibly harm you or your passengers. It is always best to secure them in the car, preferably the back seat.

Dog20car20harness More safety and harness tips from PAW:
1. For safety, do not allow pets to ride in the front seat, no matter how much the pet enjoys it. Pets riding in the front seat can be thrown into the windshield if you have to make a sudden stop. Also, the pet can climb on the driver’s lap, interfere with driving or fall down by the gas and brake pedals, causing an accident. Another reason to keep pets in the back seat or in a crate is that airbags can pose hazards to smaller people and pets. Air bags can launch out of the dashboard at a great enough force to severely injure a pet or small human. Some cars come with on on/off switches for the bags. Visit for details about switches as well as a list of dealers and repair businesses that install them. FYI, air bags can be deactivated by a car dealer, but this could affect a vehicle warranty or insurance.

2. Secure the pet in the car. An unrestrained pet can interfere with driving and become a hazardous projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, hitting the windshield, injuring a passenger or knocking the driver over (or out) resulting in loss of control of the car.

3. Crates or sturdy pet carriers are an ideal way to restrain pets in cars. Stressed pets need a nice quiet place to rest and be alone at times. Secure the crate so it does not fly forward or flip in case of a sudden stop or accident.

4. If your car does not allow room to set up a crate, obtain a dog seat belt, which doubles as a harness, from many pet supply stores and mail order/web merchants. Here are two sources:
      - Ruff Rider
      - EzyDog

5. Or install a pet barrier to keep dogs in the back seat.

6. If you don't have a crate, travel harness or partition between front and back seats, Patti Thorne-Smaridge suggests this tip using a short leash with a loop on the end. Adjust the back seat’s middle seatbelt as tight as it will go. Slip the leash through the seatbelt and resecure it. If the leash is short enough to limit the dog to sitting up, lying down and turning around, it will probably be short enough to keep the dog from being thrown to the floor in the event of a sudden stop.

It is so much better to be safe, rather than sorry. Please remember that pets need to be safe as well as kids and adults. Happy travels with your pet!

More resources:
Car Safety and Travel
First Aid
Summer Pet Safety Guide
CPR and Mouth-to-Snout Resuscitation

Keeping dogs cool in hot weather

Poison Emergency 24-Hour Hotlines:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435

National Animal Poison Control Center


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