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July 25, 2006 > This weather can be a killer!

This weather can be a killer!

by Nancy Lyon

For whatever reason... global warming, solar flares or just rotten weather... so far this summer has been a scorcher. You may be aware of the "Do's and Don'ts" of protecting our animal friends from the dangers of extreme temperatures but it's still not that unusual to see people who are being abusive simply because the rules don't seem to apply in their situation. Or, people who are ignorant of how to keep their animals out of harm's way.

Calls have already come in to animal services about dogs in hot cars. The story is sadly familiar, their guardian ran into the store for just "a couple of minutes" and Scruffy pays the sad price.

Many don't realize that in a very few brief minutes, even on a seemingly "okay" day, the temperature in a parked car with the windows down a few inches can reach a killing 120 degrees.

With this "greenhouse effect," a trapped dog or other animal can quickly suffer brain damage from heat stroke or suffocation. The rule of thumb is to never leave your companion animal or a child unattended in a parked car for any period of time - especially in warm weather.

Practice a little tough love. Don't be swayed by their entreaties that they will suffer and die if you don't take them for a ride. There's a very good chance that they actually will if you crumble and take them along.

Prevention is the best course of action. Here's a reminder of the basics for your animal friend's comfort and survival:

Exercising your dog on a daily basis is a good thing, but the routine needs to be altered in warmer weather. As the weather heats up, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs that are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the footpads.

Not enough! Many dogs, especially the "athletes" will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their human. A change of routine to early morning or late evening exercise can prevent heat stroke and save their lives.
If you're an early bird, leave before the day warms up and remember it will be hotter on the way back so don't go too far. It will be easier and more pleasant for both of you.

Have you ever tested the temperature of the sidewalk on a very warm day? If the sidewalk is too hot for you to place your bare hand on comfortably for more than a couple of seconds, then it's too hot for your dog who isn't wearing insulating tennis shoes to comfortably walk on with unprotected paws.

While we never recommend transporting your dog in the back of an open pickup truck, the same considerations should apply. The bed of an uncovered truck exposed to the sun can quickly become a frying pan to your poor companion. Dogs trying to escape the burning heat may fall into traffic, or if tethered, strangle themselves. Have him ride inside next to you. After all, he's your buddy - right?

Don't ever exercise your dog while riding your bicycle and running him on a lead. He can quickly overheat and dogs trying to keep up have died agonizing deaths. Your dog trusts you to exercise good judgment on his behalf, and the walking will do you both good. After all, could you run behind a moving vehicle for any length of time even in good weather?

Many people head for the lakes and rivers this time of year, and the family dog is often part of the fun. Water safety is important, as not all dogs are excellent swimmers by nature especially if Scruffy has underlying health problems such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting him just as your human family -- with a life preserver. If he is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold from choppy water or sudden storm, a commercially available life jacket could be what saves your friend's life.

If you're on a walk or hike, make sure a clean water source is handy. Consider carrying your own, it's safer from contamination and there are collapsible water bowls available that are easy to carry and will help protect your friend from dangerous dehydration and exposure to microscopic creatures that could be a health threat.

Dogs are not the only critters who become victims of hot weather. Rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and other small animals can suffer and die from overheating. Fresh water, a cool inside room or even a garage, a large pop bottle filled three-quarters full with water, tightly re-capped and frozen can be snuggled up to and can provide a cooling lifesaver. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight.

Caged birds depend on us to protect them. In their natural environment birds are able to control their exposure to the elements. Since we have taken flight away from them, that responsibility is now ours. They should be placed in cool rooms away from direct sunlight. Their condition should be carefully monitored during the day.

Sun-loving cats like to hangout on windowsills. Not all cats land on their feet and falls from open windows above ground floor level can result in severe injuries not to mention hefty veterinary costs. Make sure those screens are secure.

If you encounter an animal left alone in a car that exhibits one or more of the following symptoms, you need to intervene: frantic barking, heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, a deep red or purple tongue, excessive drooling or vomiting. This is definitely an emergency and the animal should be quickly removed from the vehicle and immediately seen by a veterinarian.

Call for assistance - don't wait!  While Animal Service agencies place priority on these emergency calls, field services staff may be unavailable during closed periods or on the weekend.

This situation is a priority emergency. Call the local police if you can't contact a live person. Let them know you will be waiting at the vehicle and give clear instructions: its make, license number and exact location. For the sake of continuity, make sure to get the name of your phone contact.

You may want to keep these vital contact numbers in your purse or wallet so that no time is lost in an emergency:

Fremont Animal Services: 510-790-6634/43; Police 510-790-6800 press # 0 (dispatch)
Union City Animal Services & Police 510-471-1365 (ask for dispatch)
Newark Animal Services and Police 510-790-7237 (dispatch)
Hayward Animal Services 510-293-7200; Police 510-293-7058 (patrol)
Milpitas - San Jose Animals Services 408-578-7297

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