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Avoiding the Hazards of an Indian Summer

As the Bay area moves into Indian summer, temperatures tend to rise, but warm weather can pose hazards for pets. Owners can help keep their pets safe by being aware of some of the potential dangers related to toxic fresh water algae blooms, hot cars, and broiling surfaces.


Toxic Algae Blooms in Local Lakes

Since 2014, lakes in the East Bay have sprouted toxic algae blooms that can be deadly for dogs. They are an unanticipated outcome of the drought and can affect lake-swimming dogs. If ingested, the toxins can cause liver failure and death within days. Blooms can be seen in Lake Del Valle, Lake Temescal, and Lake Chabot. The lack of rain means the blooms become more concentrated and therefore more dangerous.

“It’s a problem in the summer, because dogs like to swim when it’s hot, and it can be fatal for them,” said Carolyn Jones, East Bay Regional Park District public information supervisor. “Dogs are affected because when they swim. They drink and ingest the water, and afterwards, they often lick themselves when wet.”

Additionally, Jones said the park district has more than 350 cattle ponds where water isn’t tested but should be avoided. Between 2014 and 2015, three owners reported dogs that died after swimming at Lake Chabot. The park district has posted signs around all three lakes urging owners to keep their dogs out of the water. Still, not all owners—or their dogs—follow the warnings. Be safe and keep your water-loving dogs leashed near local fresh-water lakes.

Hot Cars

Sadly, many pets have died because they were left in cars on warm—and not necessarily hot— days while their owners were shopping, visiting friends, or running errands “for a few minutes.” Tragically, these family pets were simply the victims of their owners’ bad judgment.

Studies show that the interior temperatures of vehicles parked outside can rise steadily in short periods of time by up to 19 degrees in just 10 minutes and 30 degrees in 30 minutes. They keep rising—even if the windows are cracked open.

Bottom line: Do not leave pets in parked cars on hot days for any length of time. They are better off at home, not accompanying owners on hot days.

Hot Pavement, Sand, and Wood

Not sure if the pavement or another surface is too hot for your pet’s paws? Pavement, sand, and wood surfaces can be 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the air temperature. To determine whether it’s too hot for Spot, use the five-second rule: Place the back of your hand or bare foot on the surface for five seconds. If it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your pet.

Michael Sozanski, D.V.M., is chief veterinarian of the East Bay SPCA. He attended Cornell University for undergraduate education and veterinary school. He has practiced small animal medicine and surgery since 1980 when he moved to Northern California. He was board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in 1988. He and his wife, Christine, share a standard poodle named Ivy. He enjoys trail running, swimming, travel, photography, and designs web applications and websites, and says, “Working at the East Bay SPCA with such a caring, compassionate and professional group of people has been an amazing experience!”

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Main article photo by: graphic courtsey of East Bay SPCA