Heat can be dangerous for pets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Staff Writer

These dog days of summer can be deadly for 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.

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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 of pets suffering the effects of overexposure to the heat.

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, death can result even more quickly because humidity interferes with 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 another 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 heat stroke can be deadly, the best way to protect a pet is taking precautions to prevent it.

That can be done by leaving pets at home and not in the car. For those animals who call outside their home, owners should ensure there is adequate shelter from the midday sun and heat, have well-ventilated kennels placed in the shade, provide plenty of water in a bowl that can’t be overturned, avoid excessive exercise and talk to a vet to determine if a dog needs a summer haircut.