Experts offer tips, safety reminders for keeping pets happy and healthy during summer

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - 'Pearl' (center) romps through the grass at the Columbia City Dog Park alongside other dogs. Experts suggest giving pets exercise to reduce stress, but avoid walking dogs on hot concrete or asphalt.Summertime in Oregon often means more time spent outdoors, but high summer temperatures can put pets at high risk.

Pet owners don't have to sacrifice exercising their furry friends during summer months, but veterinarians and animal care experts offer insight on how to avoid putting your pet at risk.

Never leave dogs in a car during summer

The temperature outside may be comfortable for you, but dogs have a much harder time adapting to heat and cooling themselves down, especially when kept inside a vehicle.

Elizabeth Burns, D.V.M. at Midway Veterinary Hospital, says dogs can suffer heat stroke more easily than humans.

"It can take only 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to rise by 20 degrees Fahrenheit," Burns says. "Dogs are much more likely to get heat stroke than humans because they do not sweat. The only truly effective way for a dog to cool itself is to pant. This is not very efficient and becomes less efficient the hotter it gets."

Burns and other animal handlers say dogs can become overheated even in temperatures in the 70s, and they can't get relief by simply drinking water.

"Certain breeds are also more likely to have problems, this includes short faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs," Burns adds. SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Short-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs have a harder time cooling off if left in the heat.

Roger Kadell, dog control officer for Columbia County, says his office has seen a slight decline in calls about dogs in cars, but that doesn't mean it's not happening.

Before issuing citations, animal control officers try to gauge the situation.

"In most cases, we work to quickly resolve the issue and EDUCATE the owner," Kadell noted in an email to the Spotlight. "Factors in deciding these cases are the amount of time the animal was in the heat, this can be as low as ten minutes, the temperature outside, even 70 degree heat with direct sunlight can be an issue, [versus] the heat level in the vehicle and what level of distress the animal appears to be in."

Prevent stress and anxiety while you're away

If your pet is wrecking your house while you're away, consider ways to curb anxiety or excess energy.

"There are many signs of anxiety that animals show," Burns says. "The more obvious ones include barking, tearing up objects and even house soiling. But there are more subtle signs of anxiety such as getting worked up before you leave. ... Dogs with anxiety will start to become anxious during this time period. Other signs of anxiety are excessive greeting when you return."

Burns offers tips to try for stressed pets:

1. Increase exercise

"If you exercise it releases endorphins which make you and your pet happy, but also it's hard to be anxious when you are tired," she says.

2. Try crate training

"Crate training has two real benefits. The first is it gives the dog a den. A lot of dogs will go lay down in their crate when they are tired or want to be left alone. The other benefit of crate training is it helps keep the dog safe. Very destructive behaviors can hurt your dog (eating the couch, tearing up toe nails clawing through a door) but in a crate these problems are minimized."

3. Distract your pet with toys or fixtures

"There are many puzzle games or toys for dogs. These may be enough to help keep your pet's mind off of the fear and anxiety of being left alone."

Burns also suggests that new pet owners try taking several small trips away while training a pet, rather than one long trip. Consult a veterinarian if problems persist, to see if your animal needs anti-anxiety medication.

Walk dogs in mornings or evenings on hot days

While exercising your dog is important, be mindful of paw pads on concrete or asphalt.

"This can burn the dog's feet very quickly," Kadell notes.

Experts suggest placing your hand on the ground for a few seconds to test the temperature.

If the ground is hot to the touch, consider taking your pet to a park with grass instead.

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