July 8, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Sociey: Summertime 101
Ohlone Humane Sociey: Summertime 101
By Nancy Lyon
Summer has just started with a vengeance; temperatures in or near the triple digits. Not being a warm weather person, it was pretty miserable to venture outside and being an animal lover I couldn't help but feel concern for critters who might not be able to find a way to cool off or have been placed in harm's way by an unthinking act of their guardian.
Those of us that have been around animals for any length of time are usually - but not always - familiar with their needs when temperatures climb into the danger zone. One of my personal pet peeves is when I see some idiot riding a bicycle with a poor dog in tow trying to keep up; this especially applies in warmer weather. Not being a shy retiring violet there have been "discussions." I know that it's always best to first try and educate but with some people who think you are meddling, it can get a bit heated. But it's still necessary to speak up.
So with that in mind, here are a few summer reminders to protect the animals in your care or if you encounter an animal at risk from the heat:
Dogs need exercise even when it is hot, but extra care needs to be taken with older dogs, short-nosed dogs, and those with thick coats. On very warm or hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours. Keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can burn your "pet's" paws; they don't have the advantage of wearing shoes.
Like humans, animals can get sunburned and may require special pet friendly sunscreen on their nose and ear tips. Those with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer.
Provide plenty of fresh water and shade for your animals while they're enjoying the great outdoors so they can stay cool. If you have a pool, be aware that disasters can and have happened to companion animals as well as children. Prevent free access to pools and always supervise an animal in a pool.
Even if tempted, it's inadvisable to bring you furry buddy along to crowded summer events such as concerts, fairs or farmers' markets. The loud noises and crowds combined with the heat can be stressful and dangerous for them.
Without exception - never leave any animal in a parked car, even for a few minutes. During warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120¡ in a matter of minutes, even if you're parked in the shade with windows partially open. Dogs and cats can't perspire and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Those who are left in hot cars even briefly can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, and can even die.
Don't think that just because you'll be gone for "just a minute" that they will be safe while you're gone; even an air-conditioned car with the motor off isn't healthy for them. If you do happen to see an animal in a car alone during the hot summer months, alert the management of the store where the car is parked. If the owner of the vehicle does not return promptly, call local animal control or the police department immediately. In the heat of summer, just like you or I, animals can also suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
These are very serious conditions and should not be treated lightly and could cause their death. The signs of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.
If your companion becomes overheated, you need to immediately lower his body temperature. Move him into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water over his body to gradually lower his core body temperature. Apply cold towels or ice packs to his head, neck, and chest only. Give water in small amounts of water or let them lick ice cubes. Once you give emergency care, get him to a veterinarian immediately.
While summer presents a great opportunity for you to share quality time together in the great outdoors, it's also a time to sharpen your awareness of the potential dangers that can have deadly repercussions for your friends who depend on you to protect their safety.
And if you happen to see a smallish woman in hot pursuit of a cyclist with a gasping dog in tow don't hesitate to join in - animals deserve better.