Pets are susceptible to

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 9, 2000

heat-related illnesses


Staff Writer

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These dog days of summer can be deadly for those furry friends.

If the temperature outside is 85 degrees, the temperature inside a car can climb to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes, even with the windows slightly open.

For a dog, which has a normal body temperature of 101.0 to 102.5 degrees, and can only withstand temperatures of 107 or 108 degrees, irrepararble brain damage or death can happen quickly.

Dr. Doug Hawkins of Troy Animal Clinic said it’s not unusual to see heat stroke in this area.

"It’s sad to see one (a dog) in that kind of condition," Hawkins said.

In other words, pet owners should treat "man’s best friend" as just that.

Leaving a dog in the car is "a no-no," Hawkins said. "Ventilation is really important to them…especially if they have a coat on them."

In the South’s humidity death can come even more quickly because humidity interferes with an animals’ ability to rid themselves of excess body heat.

When humans overheat, they sweat and drying of the sweat takes excess heat with it.

But, it’s different for those four-legged friends who only perspire around their paws, which is not enough to cool the body.

To rid themselves of excess heat, animals pant. As air moves through the nasal passages, it picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it.

Although it is an effienct way to control the body temperature, it is limited in areas of high humidity and close quarters, like a vehicle.

The shape of an animal’s nasal passages can also contribute to its tendency to overheat. Pug-nosed dogs are more prone to heatstroke because they have smaller nasal passages, making it more difficult to circulate air for cooling.

Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheat because extra layers of fat act as insulation, trapping heat in their bodies and restricting breathing.

Age is also a factor in a pet’s tendency to overheat. Younger pets may not have developed temperature regulating systems and older animals’ organs may not function as they once did, leaving them prone to heat damage.

A dog overcome by heat exhaustion should immediately be soaked with water and taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Signs of heat stroke include:

· Panting

· Staring

· Anxious expression

· Refusal to obey commands

· Warm, dry skin

· Pale or dark red gums, may be dry

· High fever

· Rapid heartbeat

· Vomiting

· Unusually sluggish or unresponsive

· Collapse

Since it can be deadly, the best way to protect a pet is taking precautions to prevent heat stroke.