How to keep your dog safe in a heat wave - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

How to keep your dog safe in a heat wave

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It's the dog days of summer. But what does that mean for your dog?

Dr. Thomas Jakob - veterinary physician and owner not only of Cottonwood Veterinary Hospital in Bozeman, but four of his own dogs - sat down with Montana Right Now to explain how to keep canines safe in the sweltering heat of August.

According to Jakob, there's three things that are simply non-negotiable for a pet owner during this time of the year: providing water, shade, and attention.

As Jakob explains, bad things will always happen when someone leaves a dependent creature like a domesticated dog alone in extreme conditions.

"It's always - almost always - when the dog is left alone and people aren't there observing how hot it is and how the dog's doing," he says. "There has to be shade. And without shade, any dog with - even with a normal amount of water, and short-hair coat - could be in trouble."

But the biggest misconception people hold about canine care in the summer is that dog hair doesn't need to be groomed or cut.

He thinks of it this way: if you don't want to wear a full-length fur coat in the sun, neither does your sidekick.

Some pet owners Jakob has spoken with have expressed concern about how their dogs will look with short hair. Some, he says, are even under the impression that their dog's hair won't grow back.

That won't be a problem, he explains, unless the dog has an endocrine issue. And as for how the dog will look with short hair? Jakob stresses that the dog's comfort should always come before its appearance.

Pet owners "just have to realize how much that insulates the dog and how much that holds the heat in," he says.

If your dog has a dark-hair coat, put a white t-shirt on him or her (if he or she will allow it). This will help reflect some of that heat off of the coat.

What about walks on a hot blacktop? Well, grass is always better than a hard surface for a dog. However, if your pup is extra sensitive, consider toughening their pads with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Just be cautious that there aren't any wounds on the paw before applying the alcohol.

But what if you're in a position where you absolutely have to leave your dog in your car for just a few moments?

Jakob says if there are no other options, you need to take precautions before walking away from a car with a dog inside (and no, simply cracking the window isn't enough). "I would wet a t-shirt. Have a t-shirt handy, some water handy. Wet it and put it on the dog." Next, he says, find a way to get the air in the car moving. "They have fans that hook up to a window. Run on solar. So, you can leave that out there and that can help some of the air circulate." Finally, get as much air and shade in the vehicle as possible. "Keeping... the windows, open as much as possible. Finding any shade to park in."

Jakob underlines that if an emergency happens, and your dog does need to be left alone in the sun, it should never, ever, under any circumstances, be for more than 15 minutes. He describes it as "the magic number" for that rare emergency scenario.

"If you're in longer than that and in worse situations," he concluded, "the dog's gonna have problems with it."

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), different breeds will react differently to heat. To learn more about how you can keep your pet safe in a heat wave, visit the ASPCA's website (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/hot-weather-safety-tips) or talk to your pet's veterinarian.

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