Dog days of summer are a little too hot for pets

CALGARY — A forecast of hot weather combined with forest fire smoke blanketing Calgary is making it challenging for pets – and their owners – that like to be outdoors.

While cats are mainly indoors where they sleep for 70 per cent of their lives, dogs need more attention and outside time.

Jessica Bohrson, the senior manager of communications at the Calgary Humane Society, said dogs can’t handle too much heat.

“What we recommend is to keep their bathroom breaks as short as possible,” said Bohrson. “Try and get their exercise periods in when the smoke is a little less, so maybe in the earlier morning or the later evening and honestly just trying to keep them inside as much as possible.”

Bohrson said dogs regulate their temperature differently than people because they don’t sweat as much. They only have sweat glands in their paws.

“The only way they’re able to cool down is in panting,” said Bohrson. “You have to be aware of the signs when they start excessively panting, (or) if the color of their gums starts to change, if they start acting lethargic and listless, these are all signs of heatstroke and you’ve got to get them indoors and cool them down right away.”


Sue Higgins Park is a popular off-leash park in southeast Calgary. Normally the pathways are crowded with people out walking their dogs. But when it’s hot, not many people or pets are on the pathways. Instead they gather around the Bow River where their animals can cool off.

Matt Elgie is out with his son Lochlan and their dog Sasha.

“He’s a pretty hot boy most of the time,” said Elgie. “So we try and walk him where there’s water lots of times he likes to get in, he’s not much of a swimmer but he wades in to cool off and has lots of drinks that way.”

Val Morrison said her dog Sawyer isn’t too happy right now with his thick coat of fur and spends a lot of time in his pool at home.

“When it’s really hot I usually try to come early in the morning like eight o’clock before 10 kind of deal sort of when it’s not really hot and then (again) later in the evening when it cools down,” said Morrison. “But there are times where you just can’t come.”


Vet Dr. Amelie Pare said she’s receiving a lot of phone calls from concerned pet owners about how the forest fire smoke impacts their dogs.

“Well, if they are in trouble breathing, labored breathing, their gums are turning blue, they’re collapsing, they’re really really weak, they’re coughing, they cannot get any sleep, they’re sneezing a lot, they don’t seem like they’re in respiratory distress or anything like that is definitely the time to come and see us,” said Pare.

Pare said many people don’t realize how quickly a dog can become distressed if it’s left in a hot car.

“It can kill dogs so do not leave your dog in your car under any circumstances,” said Pare. “Sometimes you’re like it’s not that hot for you but as soon as you leave, the car can be different and even with the windows open, a few minutes can be too much.”

Each year staff at the Calgary Humane Society (CHS) receive an alarming number of calls in relation to this issue. Dogs can enter medical distress or die in minutes.

If an animal is seen in a hot car staff recommend record the time of day, temperature and location along with the license plate number.

A dog in a hot car is a dog in distress. The longer it remains in the car, the warmer the internal temperature will get. Immediately call 9-1-1 or the CHS at 403-205-4455 to file a report

If the owner returns before you can complete your call or before first responders or CHS arrives, it is still important to ensure the information you gather is received by CHS.

Staff will follow up and educate the dogs’ owner on the dangers of leaving their dog in a hot car and check on the dog’s well-being.

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