The water poured down on Luther who lapped up some of the liquid as it sprayed onto his head. Loki was next in line for a drink at the water fountain at the top of the long staircase descending into the dells area of Matthiessen State Park.
The two pups were getting a drink before heading on a hike with owners Diana and Robert Mendoza and Isaiah Fure of Genoa, who were camping at nearby Starved Rock State Park this week.
Diana had a backpack full of supplies for the excursion, but a lot of the materials inside weren’t for the humans.
“We got the portable doggy bowls and extra water,” she said. “We carry more for them than we carry for us.”
It can be a dangerous time of year to take pets out on long hikes in hot weather. The Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks Facebook page posted information last week about the risks of taking a dog hiking in extreme heat.
“We had a dog pass away a couple of weeks ago on the trail,” said Lisa Sons, Starved Rock natural resources coordinator. “It’s something that happens every summer.”
Sons said she has been in contact with friends at other state and national parks across the country and they experience the same issues.
‘People need to realize dogs can’t sweat’
It’s the time of year when Dr. Steve Dullard sees the signs of heat exhaustion in pets. The veterinarian at Ancare — located in La Salle, Spring Valley and Mendota — said just recently a dog was brought in after showing signs of heat exhaustion at a local ice cream stand.
“They brought him to the hospital because they saw he was struggling to breath,” Dullard said.
And heavy panting is a warning sign a dog is struggling in the heat.
“The biggest thing with dogs is they don’t lose body heat like we do. They do it through panting and maybe a little bit through the skin and paws,” Dullard said. “People need to realize dogs can’t sweat.”
Dullard said he has not had to treat any dogs that have suffered from heat stroke or exhaustion from overexertion at local parks this summer, but it has happened in the past.
“We’ve had dogs collapse out there from running around on the stairs,” he said.
He added that dogs with shorter snouts already have a tougher time breathing than other breeds
‘Heat can kill the brain cells’
A dog won’t be able to tell you if its body temperature is on the rise. But there are some signs owners can look for such as heavy panting, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, profuse salvation and lack of coordination.
Dullard said if a dog is showing these types of symptoms, it is urgent to get them care. They may need to be cooled down rapidly, because once their body temperature reaches a certain level it is bad for their brain.
“Once it gets so hot, the heat can kill the brain cells,” Dullard said. “The brain loses its ability to regulate body temperature and they can die.”
‘Time of year when we get a lot of those calls’
While being outside in extreme temperatures can be tough on a pet, being inside a vehicle that is not running is a main culprit for pets who suffer from heat stroke.
“This is the time of year when we get a lot of those calls,” said Peru police chief Doug Bernabei. “Sometimes it turns out to be a completely valid concern and other times they might be in the car with the AC running. But people show concern.”
Chris Tomsha, director of Illinois Valley Animal Rescue, said she will get random calls from people concerned a pet may be overheating in a vehicle during the summer months.
“I have them contact the police or contact the store,” she said. “The police are very good about responding.”
People like to travel more with their pets now than they have in the past, Dullard said. But a hot car is no place for a dog.
“The last thing they need is to be riding in the car with you,” he said.
‘They’re your babies’
Diana Mendoza was planning a wet hike just to make sure her pets were walking in comfort.
“We spend a lot of time hiking through the water for the dogs,” she said. “You’ve got to keep them safe. They’re your babies.”
And often times, extreme heat in the summer requires dog owners to adjust their exercise schedule to help make things easier on pets.
“I would personally not bring my dog out to hike in anything hotter than 80 to 85 degrees,” Sons said. “They’re on all fours, closer to the ground and covered in fur.”
Dullard said changing walk times to early morning or nighttime can help keep dogs out of the heat, especially if temperatures are north of 85 degrees. He also advised that people should be aware of hot surfaces such as asphalt, cement or sand that can damage a dog’s paws.
“If you can’t walk on the pavement, you shouldn’t make your dog,” Dullard said.