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Lindsay Pollard-Post is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.
Summertime and the livin’ is … steamy. Sweltering temperatures have many of us retreating to air-conditioned comfort, changing our clothes and sipping cold beverages. But not everyone has a way to beat the heat.
Since 2020, hot weather has killed more than 50 companion animals, including two dogs who were allegedly left in a garage on a 111-degree day last month. One of them reportedly had cuts on his nose from trying to dig into the concrete floor in search of relief from the oppressive heat.
For dogs who are confined to stifling buildings, kept chained or penned outdoors in the summer, forced to walk or run on scorching pavement or left in oven-like vehicles, the heat isn’t just uncomfortable — it can be fatal. With no way to escape high temperatures, dogs can succumb to heatstroke in minutes, causing brain damage or death. That’s why they need caring people to watch out for them this summer — and to take action if they’re in trouble.
Life at the end of a chain or in a backyard pen is lonely and miserable for dogs every day of the year, but in searing temperatures, it can turn deadly — fast. If you know of any dogs who are left outdoors, check on them often to ensure that they have water (in a tip-proof container), food, shade and shelter at all times — and encourage their owners to allow them indoors. If animals lack these necessities, notify authorities immediately and stay to ensure that they receive help.
On very hot days, walks and games of fetch require extra precautions. Scalding pavement can fry feet — literally — and it reflects heat onto animals’ bodies. Always test the pavement with your hand before setting out, and walk dogs early in the morning and late at night, when it’s cooler outside. Even if your pup is energetic, be sure to stop often in shady spots for rest and water breaks. Never make dogs run in hot weather — they’ll collapse before giving up.
And it should go without saying, but never leave a dog, child or any living, feeling being in a parked car, not even “just for a minute.” A few minutes is all it takes for a vehicle to reach deadly highs: On a 75-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 104 degrees in 20 minutes — and up to 119 degrees on a 90-degree day.
Dogs simply can’t survive that kind of heat. As their body temperature rises, they panic — barking, chewing and desperately trying to claw their way out of the roasting vehicle. Hyperthermia sets in, and their liver, kidneys and brain begin to shut down. They lose control of their bowels, vomit, suffer a heart attack and collapse. It’s a terrifying and painful way to die.
If you see a dog in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and have nearby businesses locate the vehicle’s owner. Don’t leave until the dog is out of the car and safe. If you see signs of imminent heatstroke — rapid panting, bright red tongue, dizziness and vomiting — get the dog out of the vehicle and into the shade or air conditioning. A window-breaking hammer can save a life in an emergency. Wrap a cool (not cold), wet towel around the dog’s neck, and get to a veterinarian right away.
When it’s really hot outside, the best place for our animal companions is the same place we probably want to be: indoors, with air conditioning and/or fans on and plenty of fresh, cool water available at all times.
By taking precautions with our own pups and watching out for others who aren’t as fortunate, we can make summer cool — not cruel.