Summer Safety Tip – Keeping Your Dog/Pet Safe in the Heat
The Dog Days of Summer
Common sense tells most people that leaving their pet inside a parked vehicle on a hot, summer day could be dangerous after an extended period of time. But most people don’t realize that the temperature can skyrocket after just a few minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does little to alleviate this pressure cooker.
On a warm, sunny day windows collect light, trapping heat inside the vehicle, and pushing the temperature inside to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree Fahrenheit day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within ten minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At 110 degrees, pets are in danger of heatstroke. On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute, and quickly become lethal.
A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine showed that temperatures inside cars can rise dramatically even on mild days. With outside temperatures as low as 72 degrees, researchers found that a car’s interior temperature can heat up by an average of 40 degrees within an hour, with 80% of that increase in the first 30 minutes. A cracked window provides little relief from this oven effect. The Stanford researchers found that a cracked window had an insignificant effect on both the rate of heating and the final temperature after an hour.
Pets, more so than humans, are susceptible to overheating. While people can roll down windows, turn on the air conditioner or exit the vehicle when they become too hot, pets cannot. And pets are much less efficient at cooling themselves than people are.
Dogs, for example, are designed to conserve heat. Their sweat glands, which exist on their nose and the pads of their feet, are inadequate for cooling during hot days. Panting and drinking water helps cool them, but if they only have overheated air to breathe, dogs can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes. Short-nosed breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, young pets, seniors or pets with weight, respiratory, cardiovascular or other health problems are especially susceptible to heat-related stress. (From HSUS)
Don’t Leave Dogs in Cars During Hot Season
Leaving pets or children in closed or semi-closed automobiles is extremely dangerous during any time of the year, but particularly during the warm and hot months of the year. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that whenever the outside temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the temperature within a closed car or truck can reach killing temperatures within 15 minutes after the air conditioner is turned off. Of course, lethal temperatures can be reached even faster in dark colored vehicles.
Common signs of heat stress in dogs include high rectal temperatures, rapid breathing, fast pulse rates, red gums, weakness, anxiousness, vomiting, collapse and death. It is not uncommon for the rectal temperatures in heat stressed dogs to reach 106 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal rectal temperatures in dogs rarely exceed 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stress in dogs is truly an emergency and must be dealt with as soon as possible.
Dogs suffering due to heat stress can be immersed in cold water. If immersion is not possible, spraying the dog with cold water is usually helpful. Ice can be placed between the thighs and on the head to bring the dog’s temperature down to normal. Obviously, dogs suffering due to heat stress should be moved into an air-conditioned room as quickly as possible. Small amounts of ice or cold water can be offered if the dog is conscious and able to eat and drink.
Any animal thought to be suffering because of heat stress should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Relapses commonly occur following periods of apparent recovery from heat stress.
Everything possible should be done to prevent heat stress in pets and children. Anyone seeing a pet or child alone in a parked car during the warm and hot times of the year should call the local police or emergency personnel as soon as possible. Suffering due to heat stress in parked cars is preventable.
By R.G. Elmore, D.V.M.
From Points on Pets
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