Hot dog

This dog was found last week around the CFSB Center badly in need of water. Luckily, it was able to be safely returned to its owner in Marshall County, but the Murray-Calloway County Humane Society said people need to try to make sure their pets don't wander away from home and potentially die of heat strike while temperatures are as hot as they are this week.

MURRAY – Although pets can occasionally wander away from home and not face any immediate danger, people need to make sure their animals are secure and safe this week during the latest heat wave.

Justin Holland, Murray’s official government weather observer for the National Weather Service’s Paducah office, said Monday that while this week’s heat might not turn out to be as extreme as forecasters had been predicting several days ago, it will still be very, very hot. Holland said highs will be between 95-100 degrees, with heat indexes between 98-105 degrees. He said the heat will be relatively comparable to how it felt last week during the season’s first heat wave.

Kathy Hodge, executive director of the Murray-Calloway County Humane Society, said that during last week’s heat wave, the organization received a report that serves as a reminder of why keeping an eye on your pets is so important when temperatures reach dangerous levels. A dog was found walking around the CFSB Center, and someone put out some water for it and reported it. The Humane Society picked it up and it was later reunited with its owners, she said. Somehow, the dog had made it all the way over to Murray from Marshall County, she said.

“Any time you see a dog loose in town, you should call animal control or the city police or call us,” Hodge said. “Call somebody and (ask) what to do. Of course, lots of times, they’re friendly dogs and they can just pick them up in their car and run them down to the shelter. That’s fine too because we’ll all get our alerts out (to find its owner). Many times, we do get them back home, especially if the dog is within the city limits. 

“No dog should be running loose and not on leash in the city limits, so if you see that, you know for sure that’s not a situation that should be happening. Sometimes a dog can go roaming around for two or three days before anybody ever takes the initiative to follow through (and report) that it’s out loose, and most times of year, that’s not going to be a problem except for whatever danger there is from traffic. But with this heat that we’re having, if they’re out loose, they don’t know where their water sources are, and lack of water can be deadly to a dog pretty quickly in this kind of weather.”

If possible, Hodge said it would be advisable to bring your dog inside during the day this week. If for some reason, that isn’t an option, she said pet owners should at least make sure their animals have access to shade for the entire day. They should have enough water to last them all day, so if you have a kiddie pool, it would be a good idea to keep it filled next to your dog so they can drink from it or sit in it to cool off, Hodge said.

When walking your dog in the early morning or in the evening, make sure to let them walk on the grass instead of on asphalt or concrete, Hodge added.

“I ran across a chart the other day that said if the air temperature is 95 – and we’re getting that almost every day this week – then the concrete temperature, like a driveway or sidewalks, gets to 150 degrees,” Hodge said. “If the air temperature is 95, your sidewalks are likely 140 and the asphalt and pavement is going to be 155.”

Even when there isn’t an actual heat wave taking place, Hodge said that almost every summer, she hears about someone whose dog has died of heatstroke. She said people need to be aware that even if your dog had no problem being outside for extended periods during past summers, there’s no guarantee that will be the case as it ages since older dogs are more vulnerable to heat. Very young dogs also can’t handle the heat in the same way an adult dog can, she said.

“A senior dog or a puppy can’t handle the heat in the way that a middle-aged healthy dog can,” Hodge said. “Things change, so something they maybe could have tolerated just fine in years past, they may not be able to be in the future or this summer.”

Short-nosed, flat-faced dogs – or brachycephalic breeds – are especially vulnerable to the heat because they have small nasal openings and long soft palates in the back of their mouths, which limits airflow. According to the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), they also have a narrower windpipe and have to work harder to take in enough air to keep themselves cool through panting. This condition is known as brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), and Hodge said it is very sad when a small dog dies of heatstroke and their owner had no idea they were at risk.

“Almost every summer, I’ll find out from one of the vets that somebody’s pug or bulldog died of heatstroke,” Hodge said. “I remember last summer (someone) had gotten a pug and they never had a pug before. The people were such nice folks, and they didn’t realize this was a serious issue, so they took their new pug out just like they had always taken out their other dog to walk in the heat, and the dog died of heatstroke while it was out on its walk. So we’re not being overly caution when we say that heat can be fatal; it really can … so everything you can do to keep them cool and in a cool environment during these temperatures will be something potentially life-saving for your dog.”