COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. A few weeks ago in the Colorado Springs, Colo., Broadmoor Towne Center parking lot, a small, nondescript dog was hopping from front to back seat in an SUV. It was about 90 degrees out, and he was panting like crazy. The owners had left the windows open a bit.
But a bit - or even a lot - is not enough in summer's heat. Leaving your dog in the car while you shop can easily cause Fido to drop over with heat exhaustion. And that can be fatal.
Even with the doors wide open, a parked car can become a furnace in no time. Parking in the shade doesn't cut it either, animal experts say.
Leave your dogs at home when you do extended errands. Ignore that pitiful are-you-really-going-without-me? look on their face. It could save their life.
By the way, I stuck a note on the windshield of the vehicle, hopefully shaming the owners into doing better by their puppy next time. You, too, might try that if you see a dog being abused.
And if the animal seems in distress or has been there a long time, call animal control or your local Humane Society. An overheated pet excessively pants, drools, shows mild weakness and has elevated body temperature.
Here are tips from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Web site that might save your dog's life during the summer.
¢ Exercise your dog in the cool of the early morning or evening - never when it's extremely hot. Take care not to let your dog stand on hot asphalt; his sensitive paw pads can easily burn.
¢ Always carry fresh water when walking or traveling with your pet.
¢ Provide water and plenty of shade for animals kept outdoors. Make sure to use a heavy water dish that won't get tipped over. A properly constructed doghouse provides good shade, or better yet, bring pets inside during the heat of the day. Create a pet door so they can come and go.
¢ Be careful with older and overweight animals. Snub-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and Shih Tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool. Shade may not be enough, air conditioning is better.
¢ When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, (888) 426-4435, if you suspect your animal has been poisoned.
¢ Grooming can prevent summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. If you shave the hair, leave at least 1 inch of fur. Never shave down to the skin, which robs the dog of protection from sun and overheating.
¢ Don't use sunscreen or insect repellent that isn't specifically for pets. The wrong stuff causes drooling, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
¢ Keep citronella candles and insect coils away from pets.
¢ If your pet shows signs of distress from the heat, apply cool towels and take him or her to the vet.