Warm-weather safety for pets requires a little planning, as well as common sense and vigilance while companion animals are outside. And keep in mind that dogs and other pets can become stressed by commotion and loud noises around the July Fourth holiday.

Warm-weather safety for pets requires a little planning, as well as common sense and vigilance while companion animals are outside.

While participating in warm-weather activities, dogs can push themselves to overheating. Fort Leavenworth (Kan.) Veterinary Services Branch Chief Capt. Meghan Fincher said pet owners should be aware of their pets' activity levels and whether they're getting enough rest.

“If you’re doing a long hike and they are off lead, that’s fine, but put them on (the leash occasionally) to cool them down. Always ensure that they do not go more than about an hour in hot weather without access to cold water and shade.”

Offer cool water to drink, and douse pets with cool water for evaporative cooling. Fincher said getting pets damp or allowing them a supervised swim will help keep their bodies at a safe temperature.

Certain pets are at even greater risk for overheating.

“Very young, pregnant and nursing animals do not regulate body temperature as effectively as normal healthy adult animals,” Fincher said. “Brachycephalic (short-nose) breeds — such as boxer, bulldog, Shih Tzu, Boston terrier, pit bull breeds — do not pass air as effectively and are more prone to overheating than those dogs, and cats, with longer faces.”

Excessive panting, drooling and sluggish behavior are signs that an animal is too hot. Fincher said an animal showing signs of distress should be removed from the situation causing the overheating, and veterinary aid should be sought immediately.

Signs of distress leading to heat stroke include:

- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Lethargy, reluctance to move
- Shaking/tremors
- Purple gums
- Unresponsive when called
- Seizure
- Collapse

Scorching hot summer days are not the only time to be concerned.

“Just because it is still considered spring by the calendar doesn’t mean it won’t be hot enough to risk heat stroke,” Fincher said.

Crystal Blackdeer, president of the Leavenworth County Humane Society board of directors, said that if someone witnesses an animal in distress, she asks that they try to help the animal right away, if possible, and contact the proper authorities.

“If people can do so safely, I would encourage them first to provide what the animal needs — a bowl of water, some shade, etc. If they can talk with the animal’s owner, that may help. Some people may just need a reminder, or to know that someone else is paying attention,” Blackdeer said. “Here’s the thing — animal neglect, abuse and cruelty are crimes. These are not pet issues; they are law enforcement issues. Anyone who sees or suspects animal neglect, abuse or cruelty, including animal fighting, should immediately contact the law enforcement agency that has authority in their area.”

While a doghouse may appear to provide some shade, Fincher said it offers no protection from the heat.

“When it gets really hot, like 80-90 degrees, dogs really shouldn’t spend the day outside,” she said. “But, if they are going to, they should have adequate access to shade and good shade — plentiful — and not just a doghouse. A manufactured doghouse should not be the only option for shade. On very hot, sunny days, (the doghouse) can get very hot inside, and the dog will not be able to use it for relief from the elements.”

Cars can heat up to well over 100 degrees within minutes and are no place to leave pets, not even for a short time.

“Never leave an animal in a car, even with the windows cracked,” Fincher said. “Temperatures rise to levels incompatible with life quickly.”

Blackdeer agreed with the reminder, for several reasons.

“One thing that people sometimes fail to think about when leaving pets in cars is that not only can the heat overtake them more quickly than we’d think, but they are vulnerable to so many things when left in a vehicle,” she said. “Pets can be stolen, poisoned or harmed when left alone in a vehicle. They can also present a risk to passers-by, as many pets will become protective of the vehicle when left there alone. The safest place for any pet is with its owner, or safely at home, not unaccompanied in a car or the bed of a truck.”

July Fourth precautions

Dogs and other pets can become stressed by commotion and loud noises around the July Fourth holiday.

“The safest place for pets during storms and fireworks is indoors,” Blackdeer said. “Natural phenomena like storms and celebrations with fireworks are no party for pets.”

Fincher’s own dog used to be unfazed by fireworks and storms, but after a frightening Independence Day experience, he now hides when he hears loud noises like fireworks, gunfire or thunderstorms.

“Do not leave a dog outside while fireworks are being set off nearby,” Fincher said. “Even a dog that hasn’t previously been frightened by such noises can become afraid if he is outside and can’t find a ‘safe’ place; this can result in injury or escape.”

Animal shelters often take in more strays around the holiday.

“(Pets) are subject to escaping and becoming lost or disoriented,” Blackdeer said. “Every pet should always wear (identification), either on an embroidered collar or on an engraved pet tag that identifies the pet and its owner. Pets with microchips have a great chance of being returned to their owners when lost, if the owner keeps the registration information up to date with a current phone number.”

Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Fort Leavenworth, Kan.)