Hot temps and your pet

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comMay 27, 2014 

Following a court hearing in Bass Lake, two animal-lovers spotted a dog heavily panting in a vehicle parked in partial shade with the back windows slightly unrolled. The dog seemed to be in distress, pacing back-and-forth from window-to-window.

The women returned immediately to the courthouse and spoke with court personnel, who said nothing could be done, that the owners were probably in the courtroom waiting to be called before the judge. Springing into action, one woman dumped the coffee from her Styrofoam cup, filled it with water, gave it to the thirsty animal, and refilled the cup several times over. The other waited for the judge to call recess so that the dog owners could be found and informed.

During recess, the vehicle was reparked in the shade, the dog's water bowl (which he had knocked over in his anxious pacing) was refilled, and the husband remained with the dog, while his wife went back in to the courtroom to finish business.

Another couple weren't quite so fortunate. During 100+ degree temperatures, they left their two small dogs in an enclosed trailer, with plenty of water and with the air conditioning on to keep their dogs cool. Tragically, the power went out, the cool air shut-down, the water was gulped, and when the couple returned a few hours later, one dog had died and the other ran past them to a small pond, guzzling the water.

On a 78-degree day, temperatures inside a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees. On a 90-degree day, a vehicle parked in the sun can hit a boiling 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Even when the outside air temperature is in the 60s, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach the danger zone on those bright, sunny summer days. Partially rolling down a window or parking in the shade doesn't guarantee protection since temperatures can still hit the danger mark.

Many dog owners are accustomed to traveling with their pets riding shot-gun while they run errands or do that "quick minute" shopping. Some dogs are left in cars with the windows slightly rolled down, with no shade. Others are tied in the backs of pick-ups, with no way to escape the blazing sun, and if you're stuck in stop-and-go traffic, or stopped in road construction delays, your dog can suffer heatstroke.

With the weather heating up quickly and record-breaking temperatures on the horizon, it's again time to call attention on how to properly care for your pets.

In just 15 minutes, animals can sustain brain damage or die from heatstroke. Symptoms include restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and lack of coordination. This is an emergency situation and you must get your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

"Particularly during the summer months we see three things that endanger dogs," EMC SPCA President Sharon Fitzgerald explained. "Temperatures rise quickly in a vehicle even when the windows are left slightly open. If you don't have someone to stay with your dog in your vehicle, leave your dog at home, where there is shade and fresh water."

For those who leave their dogs in the back of pick-ups, Fitzgerald warns about the risk of serious burns to the paws.

"If you can't comfortably place your hand on the bed of your pick-up (which has been sitting in the sun), the chances are your dog will suffer burns."

She also reminds that the law states dogs must be tethered with a centering device to prevent jumping out or falling over the side of the truck.

Most experts recommend not leaving pets in parked cars — even for short periods of time — if the outside temperature is in the 60s or higher.

Therefore, it's best to leave your dog home on warm days, and if you do decide to take your pet along with you for an outing, be sure to bring a water bowl and plenty of fresh drinking water.

PETA tips for home

Provide your over-heated dog with water to drink, and if possible spray with a garden hose or immerse him in a tub of cool (not iced) water for up to two minutes in order to lower the body temperature gradually.

Place your dog in front of an electric fan. Applying cool, wet towels to the groin area, head, neck, stomach, chest, and paws can also help lower the body temperature slowly. Be careful not to use ice or cold water, and don't overcool your pet.

Then call your veterinarian.

PETA tips for public

If you spot a dog left alone in a hot car, take down the car's color, model, make, and license plate number.

Have the owner paged in the nearest buildings, or call the sheriff's department. Typically, a sheriff deputy can respond more quickly than animal control, and they have the capability of entering the vehicle to rescue the dog.

If the authorities are unresponsive or too slow and the dog's life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal from the car, and take the dog into an air-conditioned building, if possible, while waiting for authorities to arrive.

Don't leave the dog unattended and don't leave the scene until help arrives.

Better safe than sorry

At a recent valley parade, one area resident was shocked to see a large number of leashed dogs sitting in the direct sun with no water, while their owners wore baseball caps and sipped cold beverages to stay cool.

Remember — if you're feeling the heat, the odds are that your dog is even hotter.

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