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As summers get hotter, humans aren't the only ones struggling to keep cool

Black and white dog sits with its eyes shut in the sun of the passenger side of a vehicle with grey upholstery
Flickr Creative Commons

As triple-digit temperatures become more common in the summers, humans are not the only ones struggling to keep cool in Idaho.

On a trip to the Idaho Humane Society, Lead Shelter Veterinarian Adrian Dannis explained how dangerous the heat can be for pets, especially dogs.

“Even five minutes can be fatal for some dogs,” she explained, “So really like running into the store to get one thing and leaving your dog in the car is not an option in this sort of heat.”

Starting at 72 degrees, Dannis said cars can quickly overheat. Under Idaho law, it’s actually illegal to lock a pet in a hot vehicle.

Dogs may not recognize they are overheating or in need of water. If your dog wants to fetch a ball into eternity, it’s important to give them breaks, set a timer or wait until the temperature drops.

Before walking your four-legged friend, Dannis also recommended pressing your hand on the ground for 7 to 10 seconds.

“And if it's too hot for you, it's probably too hot for your dog,” she said.

If the pavement is scorching, but your pet still wants a walk, getting them little booties to prevent their paw pads from burning is also an option.

Bonus: “Watching a dog wear shoes for the first time is very funny,” she added.

But if it’s hot enough for them to need shoes, they shouldn’t be walked for longer than five to ten minutes, she said.

Dark or long-haired dogs, overweight or older pets can be more sensitive to high temperatures.

Smushed nose breeds - like Bulldogs, Frenchies, Pugs - are particularly at risk of heat strokes because they can’t heat exchange as well as long-nosed breeds.

Other pets like chickens and cats also need shade, plenty of access to water and a break from the sun whenever possible. The same goes for working dogs, Dannis said. Like humans, they need time to cool off between shifts.

In any case, if a pet overheats, it needs to be cooled off as soon as possible.

“Bring them inside. Turn on the AC,” Dannis said.

“I recommend offering them some water to see if they want to drink.”

A good idea is to take a wet, room-temperature towel or t-shirt -not ice cold- and put it either on their body or on their paws, she said.

If they do not cool down after a while and continue to struggle, they might be having a heatstroke.

The first two hours after a potential over-exposure are critical to avoid death, Dannis said. A pet that appears weak, refuses to move or drink, and shakes or drools uncontrollably should be taken to the vet for emergency care.

Behind the reporting of this story

Our intern Jack Bevan contributed to this story – he also reads the host intro on the audio for the story above! Jack has been part of the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP) as part of the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Jack Bevan holds a microphone up to a small black cat in a cage. He is wearing a pink collared shirt and headphones.

SWEP is a 7-week summer program that provides work experience for Idaho youth. SWEP provides young people with visual impairments the opportunity to train with a variety of Boise-based businesses, with a one-week job readiness training and then 6 weeks of paid work experience.

As a group, participants - who all gather in Boise State University housing - are expected to plan, prepare, serve their evening meals, etc., and have that away-from-home adult experience.

Jack sits at a dark wood table with a microphone and headphones next to a woman wearing red scrubs. There are highlighters and sticky notes on the table.
Julie Luchetta
Boise State Public Radio

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.