By Tamara Sevigny
Everyone knows that the inside of a car can be lethal on a hot summer day. But your pets need you to know more then that to keep them safe in the heat of the summer.
Days above 85 or 90 degrees, especially when humid, are inherently dangerous for pets. Humidity interferes with animals’ ability to rid themselves of excess heat.
Dogs only perspire around their paws, which is not enough to cool their bodies. To rid themselves of excess heat, they pant. The air moves through their nasal passages, which picks up the excess heat from their body. As it is expelled through the mouth the excess heat exits with it. This, in fact, is a very efficient way to control body heat, but is severely limited in small quarters or in areas of high humidity.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect your pet of having heatstroke (signs listed below), you must act quickly. Call or have someone call the veterinarian immediately while you lower the animal’s body temperature. Do this by getting the dog out of the sun and applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. Many times the animal will respond after a few minutes of cooling only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling well below normal. Keep this in mind and get the animal to the veterinarian immediately.
Once your pet is in the veterinarian’s care treatment may include further cooling techniques, intravenous fluid therapy to counter shock or medication to prevent or reverse brain damage.
Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention and your animals are counting on you to keep them out of harm’s way.
There are many factors that can contribute to an animal overheating:
• Brachiocephalic (pug-nosed) dogs are more prone to heatstroke because their nasal passages are smaller and it is not easy for them to circulate sufficient air for cooling.
• Overweight dogs are also prone to overheating due to their extra layers of fat acting as insulation, trapping heat in their bodies and restricting breathing capabilities.
• Age is another factor in an animals’ tendency to overheat. Very young animals may not have fully developed temperature-regulating systems and older pets’ organ systems may not be functioning fully.
• Your car is a death trap even on a mildly sunny day. Your car can insidiously rise in temperature to well over 120 degrees. Never leave your pet inside the car, cracking the windows doesn’t cut it. If your dog can’t come with you when you get out of the car, leave him home!
• Leaving your animals outdoors without shelter is another dangerous situation. This is just as dangerous as leaving them in a hot car. Don’t leave them in a cage, on a chain or outdoors on a run without shade, sufficient air circulation and plenty of water.
Sings of Heatstroke:
• Anxious expression
• Warm, dry skin
• Refusal to obey commands
• Rapid heartbeat
• High fever
• Adequate shelter from sun when outdoors
• Well-ventilated outdoor kennels should be in the shade
• Plenty of fresh water that cannot be tipped over or spilled
• Avoid excessive exercise on hot, humid days
• Trim longhaired pets in summer months