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Hot conditions pose problems for pets

Blair Bracken
Shelter Tails

It’s summer, and it’s hot. Even when it seems cooler than normal, the heat contained in a stationary vehicle can substantially increase in a short amount of time, and we can easily take it for granted when making a “quick” stop into the store, which is why it’s so important to be aware of pets left in vehicles.

Imagine yourself being stuck, waiting in a car. Windows are up, and the heat is rising. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Now, add a fur coat. This environment creates a death trap for animals.

Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.

If you see a pet left alone in a hot car, it’s best to take down the car’s color, model, make and license plate number. Then, have the owner paged in the nearest buildings, or call local humane authorities or police. It’s important to have someone keep an eye on the dog and if at all possible, don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.

Even walking your dog on a hot day can be dangerous. Keep in mind that if it feels hot enough to fry an egg outside, it probably is. When the air temperature is 86 degrees, the asphalt can reach a 135 degrees — more than hot enough to cook an egg, and it can do the same to our canines’ sensitive foot pads.

On an 87-degree day, asphalt temperatures can reach 140 degrees, hot enough to cause burns, permanent damage and scarring after just one minute of contact. At 150 degrees, rapid burns and blistering can occur.

Hot sidewalks, pavement and parking lots can not only burn paws, they also reflect heat onto dogs’ bodies, increasing their risk of deadly heatstroke.

Always test the pavement with your hand before setting out — too hot to touch is just too hot. Instead, take the opportunity to walk with your furry friend early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler. Be sure to carry water and take frequent breaks in shady spots and never make dogs wear muzzles that restrict their breathing.

If you suspect a heatstroke in a pet, watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and lack of coordination.

If a pet shows any of these symptoms, get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take him or her into an air-conditioned building if possible and call animal control. Tell them it is an emergency.

Provide water to drink, and if possible spray the dog with a garden hose or immerse him or her in a tub of cool, but not iced, water for up to two minutes in order to lower the body temperature gradually. You can also place the dog in front of an electric fan. Applying cool, wet towels to the groin area, stomach, chest and paws can also help. Be careful not to use ice or cold water, and don’t overcool the animal, and don’t do it too quickly.

Blair Bracken is the events and development coordinator at the Rifle Animal Shelter. She can be reached at 970-625-8808.


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