Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vets warn about effects of heat on pets

by Winston Jones/Staff Writer

This time of year is often called “the dog days of summer,” but the current hot temperatures can cause heat strokes and other problems in dogs, just like in humans, a local veterinarian warned Monday.

“Animals instinctively know to stay out of heat,” said Dr. Justin Verner, DVM. “But dogs are such loyal companions, they often stick with us out in the sun until they’re overcome by the heat.”

Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat, Verner noted. He said dogs cool themselves by panting, passing air rapidly over the tongue to cool the blood circulating through the mouth.

“It’s an inefficient system of cooling,” he said. “Dogs need to find a cool, shady spot when outdoors, under the deck or beneath bushes.” He said they also need lots of fresh water.

He said dogs with short snouts, the “smashed in” face dogs, such as bulldogs, Boston Terriers, pugs, pekingese and shih tzus, are especially prone to heat problems since they can’t breathe as effectively as longer snout dogs.

Verner said pet owners often miss heat stroke symptoms and dogs rapidly progress to death without treatment. The common signs of heat stroke in a dog are rapid panting, twitching muscles, lethargy, hot skin and a dazed look.

“I’ve seen many dogs with heat stroke and they usually don’t make it,” he said. “They have trouble breathing and when their temperatures get above 106 degrees, their organs begin shutting down.”

Verner said if you think your dog might be having a heat stroke, cool it off with a water hose and get it to a vet immediately.

He also warned against leaving dogs in cars, even when the windows are partially down and even on days that don’t seem hot.

“Some breeds of dogs are very intolerant of heat,” he said. He said asphalt paving drives the heat up fast.

“It’s best to keep your dogs out of the midday heat,” Verner said. “Take them out for exercise in the early morning before the sun comes up or late in the afternoon after it’s gone down.”

Additional heat suggestions from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) inlcude:

• if you see a dog in a parked car, take down the car’s information and have the owner paged over the store intercom or notify law enforcement authorities;

• don’t take your dog with you jogging except during cool times of the day and provide plenty of water and rest;

• keep dogs indoors and provide them with shade and drinking water when outdoors;

• and if you see a dog that looks in distress, contact authorities.

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