With the sudden onset of hot weather (wasn't it rainy just last week?), those of us in the Pacific Northwest go a bit crazy. We suddenly abandon indoor activities for the great outdoors, bask in the sun, then return indoors to declare that it simply wasn't that hot last year (which, yesterday, was the truth). But we often forget about our furry friends. Dogs overheat much more quickly than people do, and can only cool themselves off by panting and cooling the pads of their feet. With an ample supply of water, and the ability to find cool spots in the yards or at home, most dogs can fare just fine.
But what about hot cars? It's important tor remember that the car can heat to dangerous levels in a shorter amount of time than you'd expect. According to PETA, on a 90 degree day, a car can get hot enough to cause brain damage or death to a dog within 15 minutes. On a 78 degree day - just incrementally cooler than it was yesterday - a parked car can reach over 100 degrees. All this to say, please don't leave your dogs in your car on a hot day - "just a minute" just isn't worth it.
Now, dogs can overheat in other ways as well. Heatstroke is not just a human condition. If your dog becomes restless, starts panting more heavily than normal, seems overly thirsty and lethargic you need to act fast. Get the dog out of the heat, into a cool room, or in the most serious of situations, an air-conditioned car to the vet. If your dog seems just a little overheated, you can use a garden hose or kiddie pool to cool them down (Gracie the Retriever loves her kiddie pool). You shouldn't use ice cold water, as that will shock the system, but pleasantly cool water. Once your dog is out of the sun, perhaps guide them to a nice electric fan. If it feels good for humans, it should cool down the puppy as well.
The important thing to remember is not to leave your dog in a situation where you would feel to hot - remember that dogs have a fur coat to insulate them. So while spending hours in the direct sun may be slightly too warm for you, chances are it's horribly uncomfortable for your dog. Most importantly, dogs in hot cars don't mix.