What to Know
- A dog‘s shallow and rapid breathing can be a sign of heat stroke.
- Pet owners should check the ground with the back of their hand to determine if it is too hot for their pet to walk on.
- Officials advise people to take pets outside during the early morning or evening to avoid the heat.
As summer heats up, the Malibu Search and Rescue team is warning pet owners to be cautious, and not push pets beyond their limits in the heat, especially since dogs can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes.
Three dogs were rescued by the Malibu Search and Rescue team within the last two months. Two of those were rescues within the last week. One dog succumbed to heat-related conditions while hiking outdoors Tuesday.
Titus, a 5-year-old Siberian husky, was brought to safety by the Malibu Search and Rescue team Thursday, after surviving the injuries he sustained while hiking in high temperatures. Reserve Deputy Sheriff Steve Marshall said thanks to Titus' owners, he didn't experience any dangerous heat-related harm, and the canine only needed basic first-aid to tend to torn paws caused by thorns and rocks on the trail.
Neal Thornhill, a Malibu Search and Rescue technician, said some dogs, such as Labradors, often won’t show signs of heat distress, and when they do, it might already be too late. He added that dogs can succumb to heatstroke within 15 minutes, so it is best for pet owners to take preventive actions.
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"You don't want to play catch up with heat," Thornhill said. "If it is uncomfortable for you, it is exceptionally uncomfortable for your dog."
The Malibu Search and Rescue team found Titus adequately hydrated and under the shade of a makeshift shelter Thursday just after 1 p.m. on the Pentachaeta Trail on the LA County side of Westlake Village.
Although Titus spent hours in the heat, good physical condition, proper hydration and cover from the sun protected it from further harm, Marshall said.
However, not all dogs have well-prepared owners.
A 90-pound black Labrador retriever died Tuesday a half-mile into Stunt Road, a well maintained hiking trail in Calabasas, before rescuers could get to it. Its owner called Malibu Search and Rescue, reporting that the dog's breathing was shallow and rapid, which is a sign of heatstroke, Thornhill said. A passerby attempted CPR on the canine without success.
Marshall said these pet owners should not be labeled good or bad, adding that there were different factors that affected the outcome of the rescued dogs. Thornhill said temperatures were higher the day of the black lab’s rescue. The dog was 9 years old, overweight and lacking adequate hydration while being out and physically active on a hot day — factors that can increase the possibility of heat-related illness in dogs, he said.
Titus' owners made the right choice by immediately seeking help for their canine friend, Marshall said. Had they waited until sunset, the outcome could have been much worse, he added.
The third dog rescued, also overweight and old, was treated for heat-related conditions, Marshall said.
Thornhill said it is best to take pets outside during the early morning or evening to avoid the heat. They should be properly hydrated, and owners should carry sufficient water for them when outdoors. He suggested pet owners check the ground with the back of their hand to determine if it is too hot for their pet.
Unless abuse is determined to be intentional, owners are not criminally charged or reprimanded for what happens to their pets, Thornhill said.
"The owners think they are taking the dog on a hike; they think they are doing something good," Thornhill said. "We are here to provide a free service, not to judge."