We’ve previously covered the topic of pet safety in transportation, but usually from the owner’s perspective. Here, we wanted to try something different – raising transporter awareness of just how important it is to be extra cautious during the summer.
The following is an overview of warm weather safety hazards that pet transporters should keep in mind. We hope it’ll serve as a primer for new drivers on the platform, and a reminder for the veterans.
Overheating and Dehydration
When it’s hot outside, many animals struggle to regulate their body temperature. Neither cats nor dogs sweat as humans do, which makes them vulnerable to overheating. During transport, steps must be taken to mitigate these risks.
One precaution that often gets mentioned is never leaving pets alone inside locked vehicles. When the car isn’t moving, the A/C is either off or functioning at a reduced capacity. This means the inside of the vehicle can get very hot very quickly:
| Temperature /|
|70º|| 75 º||80 º||85 º||90 º||95º|
|10 min||89 º||94 º||99 º||104 º||109 º||114 º|
|20 min||99 º||104 º||109 º||114 º||119 º||124 º|
|30 min||104 º||109 º||114 º||119 º||124 º||129 º|
|40 min||108 º||113 º||118 º||123 º||128 º||133 º|
|50 min||111 º||116 º||121 º||126 º||131 º||136 º|
|60 min||113 º||118 º||123 º||128 º||133 º||138 º|
The heat rises even quicker if you’re transporting multiple pets at once. Each body in the vehicle is generating heat and adding to the problem. If left on their own in these escalating conditions, animals are helpless and in severe danger of heatstroke. But when a human is around, it’s easy to turn the engine back on and restart the A/C.
Beyond that, here are several common-sense measures you can take to keep pets safe during summertime transportation:
- Hydration: Make sure that each pet has access to plenty of fresh water at all times.
- Ventilation: Make sure the pet carriers are positioned so that each has a good air flow going.
- Monitoring: Keep an eye out for warning signs such as excessive panting or drooling, listlessness, and dizziness. If left unchecked, these symptoms can progress to vomiting and unconsciousness.
Walking in Warm Weather
Of course, heat hazards are not only an issue inside the vehicle. When you stop and take the pet out for a potty break, they can be directly exposed to sunlight. For some dogs – particularly those with shaggy black pelts – this might be enough to put them at risk. Try to keep these sensitive animals in the shade whenever possible, even while out on a walk.
Do not walk dogs on hot pavement, especially if they’re short-legged. You might not notice this, but the heat coming off of the surface can make it highly uncomfortable for them. More importantly, if their paws get blistered, it becomes even harder for them to regulate temperature.
In or out of the vehicle, if the animal appears to be overheating, here’s what you can do:
- Move them to a cool, shaded environment as soon as possible.
- If they’re able to drink, offer them fresh water, cold but without ice.
- If they’re able to drink, use a wet cloth to gently wipe their paw pads, necks, or tongues.
- Check their temperature. Anywhere between 103 and 106 degrees is considered elevated.
- If they’re still struggling, get them to the nearest vet.
High-Risk Canine Breeds
Since dogs come in all shapes and sizes, there are certain breeds that face greater difficulties in warm weather. For the purposes of this summary, we’ll split the high-risk breeds into three distinct categories. Still, keep in mind that there’s plenty of overlap there.
Short-nose (brachycephalic) breeds include pugs, bulldogs, Shih-Tzu, and many others. They usually suffer from respiratory issues caused by the shortened and often congested breathing pathways. And respiration in dogs, as mentioned before, is closely tied to regulating body temperature.
Long-haired breeds include collies, chow-chows, schnauzers, as well as various shepherds and others. Their luxurious coats aren’t a problem in and of themselves – shaving them, for instance, does not help. However, these animals were bred for colder climates and don’t handle warm weather particularly well.
High-energy breeds include beagles, boxers, as well as many different terriers and spaniels. Put simply, these dogs don’t know when to quit. They require frequent physical activity which, in hot weather, can lead to heat exhaustion. Additionally, some of these breeds are prone to cardiovascular conditions which elevate the dangers posed by heatstroke.
Dogs (and other pets) can also be considered to be “high-risk” individually if they’re overweight, very old, very young, or on certain prescription medications. Each of these animals is a story of its own, featuring unique risk factors and necessary precautions. In general, we can only advise closely following the instructions of an animal’s owner and veterinarian.
Finally, let’s consider one last contributing factor to the summertime pet safety issue: transporter confidence. Experienced drivers may think that they’ve got this under control – no animal has ever overheated on their watch. Make sure there’s plenty of water and the A/C is on, what else is there to worry about? Then suddenly, they need to pop out of the car to run a quick errand. It’ll only take a minute or two… maybe five, no more than ten.
And just like that, there goes that perfect record.
The solution is simple – do not get overly confident. Stay on your toes, don’t make lazy mistakes, and try to stay as attentive of the animal’s needs as possible. Occasionally think about what you might be missing: Would a backseat temperature monitor be a decent investment? How about keeping a rectal thermometer in the car, just in case?
Last year, according to PETA, there have been 58 canine casualties caused by overheating in the US. While this may not sound like much, keep in mind that the vast majority of such cases go unreported. As a community, CitizenShipper is committed to avoid adding to this disturbing statistic for the year 2019 and beyond.