The dog days of summer are upon us, and with them come scorching heat and humidity so high it feels like the air itself is sweating! Southeast Texans are all too familiar with the rising temperatures from early May until late September, but while basking in the icy-cold blast of the air conditioning, remember your pets also need escape from the sweltering sun.
Many pet owners enjoy nothing more than to cruise down the streets with their eager pup at their side, while their furry friend takes in the sweet summer air against their snout, but what about when the car is in park? Some wouldn’t think twice about leaving their four-legged companions in the car to run a quick errand, just as long as the windows are cracked, right? Wrong! According to a recent press release from SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), dogs left in cars are an all-too-common summertime sight in parking lots, and animal experts say it is both extremely dangerous for animals and could land their owners in hot water. The type of injuries from the overwhelming high temperatures can range from heat stress to heat stroke and even death. Within the last year, several pets have been severely injured or have died in Southeast Texas from being left in parked vehicles.
Dr. George Pope DVM of Beaumont West Animal Care said it’s all about using common sense.
“When running errands, treat your dog like you would your baby. If you wouldn’t leave a defenseless baby in a car because it would be too hot, then don’t leave your animal,” he said. Dr. Pope also warned that animals that are overweight, have a thick coat, or are already suffering from medical issues are at higher risk for heat-induced injuries.
Heat stroke can occur in dogs within only 5 minutes in a closed car in hot Texas weather. Dogs can have a heat stroke when their body temperatures reach 105 degrees; their normal body temperature is usually at 101 degrees. Only a few degrees can cause serious internal injuries.
According to Dr. Pope, some clinical signs of heat problems to look for in your pet would be increased respiration and panting. Being lethargic, wobbly walking, discoloration of gums and increased heart rate are all causes of concern that should be addressed immediately. Do not, however, force your pet to drink water or submerge them in cold water as these can be counter-productive measures. Instead, Dr. Pope recommends cooling the animal off with a fan or using cool water.
“Immediately remove your pet from the hot environment, and if possible place cool water and a fan on them,” he said. “Using a water hose is pretty effective. Be sure to get the animal wet all over.”
Placing cool, wet towels on the pet’s back, neck, groin area and paws will also help cool them off faster.
Dr. Suzi Hahn of All Paws Veterinary Clinic in Beaumont emphasizes that heat related illness in pets is 100 percent preventable.
“As long as pet owners pay attention to the weather outside and the behavior of their animals, heat stress and heat problems would likely not occur,” she said. More importantly, Dr. Hahn said animals don’t have to be in a parked car to get sick.
“They can become ill from being active, or even sleeping too soundly while outside on a hot day,” she said. Simply staying outdoors for a long amount of time or being inside without air conditioning on a hot day can have harmful effects to the health of your pet.
“I had a patient once who died because the owner forgot to turn the air conditioning on after they left for work,” she said. “Remember, if it’s too hot for you to sit outside, it’s too hot for your pet as well.”