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FRANKLIN COUNTY — Think it’s hot outside today? If you are uncomfortable out in the heat, think about what it’s like for your pet.

Most people realize the importance of using sunscreen and staying hydrated when they are outside. But, sometimes pet owners don’t think about the importance of keeping their fur babies hydrated and out of the direct sun.

Going barefoot on hot sidewalks isn’t a good idea for humans. Taking a dog for a walk on a hot sidewalk or road can scorch unprotected paws too.

In fact, organizers at Chambersburg’s Old Market Day are suggesting that visitors leave their dogs at home. The street festival has always been a pet-friendly venue, but the current heatwave raises concerns about a pet’s safety on the hot sidewalks and streets.

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Basic Precautions for Pets

Jennifer Vanderau, communications director at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, says there are some basic precautions pet owners should take when out and about with their pets in the summer heat.

First and foremost is the warning everyone should know about leaving a pet (or child) in a car. Once everyone understands that is never a good idea, Vanderau wants every pet owner to be aware of other heat-related dangers to pets.

“Pets most definitely need access to water and cool spots, especially the breeds with smashed faces”

Jennifer Vanderau, Communications Director at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

Breeds like pugs have difficulty breathing sometimes as it is. If you add panting through incredibly hot heat to the mix for a pug, issues can arise rather quickly.

“Our pets don’t sweat like we do,” Vanderau said. Instead, they cool themselves down by panting.

“They can also put their bellies or paw pads on a cool surface to help, but mostly it’s panting,” she said. “When they pant, obviously their breathing accelerates, but so does their heart rate.”

If they can’t cool down, excessive panting can lead to heart failure, brain damage and nerve damage.

Even if a pet doesn’t die, he could literally be affected for life from sitting in a hot car. Or otherwise suffering from a heat stroke.

Sunburn Isn’t Just for Humans

Vanderau also has warnings about sunburn… The pet variety.

“Sunburns aren’t just for humans,” she said.

Hairless breeds — or dogs that have lost their hair recently — can get sunburned. So when you’re out and about on those bright sunny days, keep your four-legged friends in mind and make sure they have access to shade.

For the same reason, she cautions against shaving a pet’s fur off in the summertime.

Animals — even the furry ones — can regulate their internal temperatures as long as they’re not exposed to the elements for too long,” she said.

“It’s more important to give them shade than to shave them to the skin. 

“Asphalt is another big one for me,” Vanderau said. “I can feel the heat coming off it when I’m wearing flip flops. Imagine what it’s like for our dogs and cats who have no protection on their sensitive paws.”

If you’re taking a walk in the summer, remember to give your pooch a chance to wander through some grass so he can get off that burning pavement. 

Warning: Hot Cars Can Be Deadly for Pets

As for hot cars in the summer, Vanderau has this to say:

“I always worry that people are sick to death of hearing about pets in hot cars, but then I’ll hear about someone who leaves a dog (or God forbid a baby) in a car on a hot day and my brain leaks out my ears a little, so I’m going to talk about it.

“The car can become an oven (a literal oven that cooks people and pets) in a remarkably short amount of time. On these really hot days when you go to leave work, sit in your car for a moment without turning it on or rolling the windows down — although, when the temperature gets to almost 100, go ahead and roll them down, it won’t provide much relief. 

“I don’t know about you, but I’m drenched within seconds. Now imagine having fur all over your body and having to tolerate that kind of heat. It’s not good for your dog — or cat for that matter — to have to sit in a hot car in the summer. 

“According to a university study I found, even when it’s 72 degrees outside, a parked car’s internal temperature can reach 116 degrees in one hour. That’s too hot for anyone, let alone an animal covered in fur. 

“Please, if you have to take your animal with you in the car, make it a short trip and don’t leave them in a parked car.”

Jennifer Vanderau is communications director at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and an animal lover with a strong empathy for pet welfare.

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