The Jones family adore their French bulldog, Oscar, and plan to take Oscar on his first annual Jones summer road trip. Mill Creek Animal Hospital invites you to take a seat and ride along as we watch the Jones family make smart summer choices for their beloved Oscar.
The Jones family trip: Before the family leaves, Mrs. Jones secures Oscar in his dog car seat with a harness, and tucks him in between his human siblings, Mason and Molly. They drive off, and the vacation begins. Then, only an hour outside of town, the Jones get stuck in a traffic jam. Despite leaving early to travel in the cooler hours, the temperature is already climbing, and the heat is concerning. Oscar begins to pant. At first, Oscar seems merely antsy—he prefers to ride, not sit—but the panting does not stop. His tongue widens, and he begins looking around. Mason reaches into Oscar’s travel bag and fills a bowl with water that the little Frenchie happily accepts and drinks right away.
- Always secure a pet while traveling in a car. A loose dog or cat could mean harm for the pet, or the other car occupants.
- Dogs can dehydrate rapidly in the heat, so ensure you always travel with fresh water and a pet bowl. At home, your pet should have unlimited access to water inside. Outside, ensure their bowl is in a consistently shady place to prevent heating and evaporation.
The trip: By late morning everyone in the car is antsy. The family stops at a rest area and Mrs. Jones takes Oscar to the grass. An old Labrador barks wildly from the nearby enclosed dog exercise yard. Oscar’s whole body wiggles as he watches the Lab offer him a play-bow from behind the fence, and wants to play. But, Mrs. Jones sees that the large dog is heat-stressed. Oscar snorts, but she looks at his compact face, knowing it isn’t wise to let the little Frenchie play, either. Then, she sees the Labrador is sprawled on the concrete with his belly pressed to the surface. He gets up, but stumbles slightly. Mrs. Jones shouts to the dog’s owner, who is clearly lost in her phone, but then rushes to her dog. She calls the nearest veterinary emergency hospital and takes him in for immediate treatment.
- Brachycephalic dogs, like Oscar, are at high risk for heat-related conditions, because their shorter oral and nasal cavities are less efficient at cooling them.
- Older pets, like the Labrador, are also at higher risk.
- A pet showing heat-stress signs should be cooled immediately, if possible, and/or taken as quickly as possible for veterinary care. At home, you should:
- Take them inside or to a cooler environment, and offer them cool water.
- Place them in front of a fan, or place them in a bathtub of cool—never cold—water.
- Remove them from the bathtub when their body temperature goes down to 103 degrees and dry them off. A higher temperature indicates they are still too hot.
- The Labrador’s bright red, lolling tongue is a first sign of heat stress, and can rapidly become heatstroke. Other warning signs include:
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- High heart rate
- Bright red gums
The trip: The Jones family continues their trip, and after crossing a long stretch of prairie, they are starving for lunch. Finally, a roadside diner appears. Mr. Jones places their to-go orders, and they all eat in the car, with Oscar in heaven between two French-fry-sharing kids.
The lesson: The Joneses were right in not leaving their beloved Oscar in the car while they ate, because leaving a pet in a parked car for “only a minute” is too long. The temperature in a parked car can soar 20 degrees in 10 minutes, leaving a pet in desperate condition and at risk for heatstroke and death.
The trip: After a long day, the resort motel is a sweet sight for the weary travelers. Heat rises from the pavement as the Joneses step out of the car. Oscar is impatient, and leaps out as soon as Molly lets him out of his car seat and opens the door. Fortunately, he is still leashed, and Molly stops him by tightening his leash. She places her hand on the pavement to test the temperature—it’s uncomfortable to touch—so she carries her stocky Frenchie across the parking lot to their room.
The lesson: Paw pads are vulnerable to burns from pavement, artificial grass, and other hot surfaces during the summer. Skin breakdown begins at 125 degrees, which asphalt can reach on a seemingly mild 77-degree day. Always test any surface with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold comfortably for seven seconds, the surface is too hot for your pet, who could burn their paw pads.
The Jones family trip demonstrates key decisions that prioritize pet heat safety—and that little Oscar is one lucky dog. If the family members had made other choices along the route, the situation could have looked quite different.
Mill Creek Animal Hospital reminds you that we are always here for your pet, including when you are traveling, to help you make the right choices along the way. Contact us with any questions or concerns.