Beware: heat can be dangerous to dogs in Colorado’s Grand Valley |

Beware: heat can be dangerous to dogs in Colorado’s Grand Valley

Wetting your dog down, whether it’s in a kiddie pool or with sprinklers, is a good way to help it stay cool during the hot summer months.
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According to Penny McCarty, Mesa County Animal Services director, signs of heatstroke in dogs include “rapid heartbeat, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of coordination, unconsciousness, glazed eyes and convulsions. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 to 102.5 degrees; a dog can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering irreversible nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.”

Too often Grand Valley summer means soaring temperatures, sometimes well into the triple digits. That means your furry friends are at risk for heat exposure, especially if they’re left unattended in cars.

According to Penny McCarty, Mesa County Animal Services director, “In the last 30 days, Mesa County Animal Services Officers and local law enforcement have responded to over 50 reports of dogs left in cars. Twenty responses resulted in some type of documented action, including 10 summons to court. Local fines can be up to $1,000 and, depending on the circumstances, jail may be ordered. Worse yet, the most serious consequence is too often the unnecessary suffering of the innocent, unattended pet.

“Dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only cool off by panting and through the pads in their feet,” McCarty added. “Enclosed cars heat up quickly. In a recent study they determined that when it was 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car rose to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes. Studies show that cracking the windows has little effect on a vehicle’s internal temperature.”

With that in mind, Mesa County Animal Services encourages dogs to be left at home, not in cars, during the summer months.

“If you are traveling with your pet, please check for pet friendly hotels and make good use of parks and drive-through restaurants,” McCarty said. “If you must stop but are traveling with other friends or family, please leave an adult in the car with your pet so that they can monitor the environment, turn on the air conditioning as needed or remove the animal from the vehicle if it gets too warm.”

Erika Hall, owner/operator of Strutt Your Mutt, a dog training and care business, is known for large pack walks around Grand Junction.

“Only walk your dogs in the early morning and late evening,” she said. “If you can’t hold your hand on the pavement for more than five seconds without it feeling super hot, than it’s too hot for your dog to walk on. Be mindful of heat exhaustion: glassy eyes, long dangling tongue, lethargy, and extra heavy panting. The fastest way to cool a dog off is to wet their bellies and feet with cool water.”

Dog “bloat” is also something to watch for in summer.

“Bloat will kill a dog,” Hall said. “People should not feed their dog if the are about to exercise their dog, and they shouldn’t feed their dog until a while after exercise. The heat increases a dog’s panting, and the heavier they pant around meal time the more likely they are to get bloat.”

Roice Hurst Humane Society often has up to 50 dogs who need regular walks and exercise, so keeping them cool is a focus as well.

Anna Stout, Roice Hurst’s executive director, said that outside of early morning walks, other ways to keep canines cool include “filling kiddie pools with ice,” “play dates in shaded yards,” and putting “water on our dogs’ chests and paws to cool them down.”

“At home, you also can lay a wet towel down for your dog to lay on and even put it in front of a fan,” Stout noted. “And so many dogs love playing in the sprinklers!”

For more information, or to report a dog in a hot car, call Mesa County Animal Services at 970-255-5003.

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