FREDERICKSBURG, Texas – Three dog deaths in a week at Enchanted Rock Natural State Area have led Texas Parks and Wildlife officials to recommend visitors consider leaving their dogs at home due to the heat.
"It's not very forgiving out here," said Doug Cochran, the park's superintendent.
All three dogs died from heat-related causes after walking on the Loop Trail, Cochran said. In addition to sweltering temperatures, the trail's granite gravel surface can rise to paw-scorching temperatures in excess of 130 degrees.
With more high temperatures expected in the days ahead, Cochran said pet owners should consider leaving their dogs at home, especially if they are not used to the heat. If visitors do want to hike with their dogs, he suggested they do it either early or late in the day, and bring water for the dogs in addition to the two liters Texas Parks and Wildlife advises for each person.
The first two dogs that died belonged to the same owner, Cochran said. One of them collapsed and died on the trail, while the owner carried the second one, which was having breathing problems back to park headquarters, where staff tried to cool it down with water and placing it in the air conditioning.
The dog died after the owner left with it, Cochran said.
The third dog collapsed on the trail as well, he said. The owner carried it as far as they could, and the dog was dead when staff arrived on the trail to get it.
Dr. Casey Pitmon, a veterinarian at the Friendship Veterinary Center in Fredericksburg, said a variety of factors affect how well a dog is made to withstand the heat, and it may not take much time before it's too much.
"If they're running around and they're active in 100-degree heat, it may be less than 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and they can reach that critical point."
Pitmon said owners need to look for the following signs of heat stroke in their dogs:
Excessive panting and salivating
Very red gums or mucous membranes
Stumbling or unable to stand
Bloody vomit, stool or urine
Strange bruising (petechiae)
If you see these signs, Pitmon also gave tips for cooling them down:
Wet the dog's fur down with cold, wet towels
Put them in front of an air-conditioning unit or fan
Do not use ice, as it could make them hypothermic
Get them to a veterinarian ASAP