Can you even begin to imagine the tragedy? Last summer a mother of five went to the store with her entire brood, got home, unloaded the goods, and took the kids inside.
Well, took most of the kids inside.
One was left in the car. Forgotten. In the searing summer heat. In a few minutes it was all over. A child was dead.
Did you know that this same scenario is repeated several times daily around this country, except substituting a pet dog, or sometimes cat, for the child?
As American pet owners, we love to take our pets everywhere we go. Sometimes, though, we take it too far, or we fail to take our common sense with us. Fluffy loves to ride, but what are you going to do with her when you get to where you’re going?
If you stop at the store, even for just a few minutes, Fluffy could suffer fatal heat stroke even with the windows rolled down. Temperatures can soar to 120 degrees inside the car before you can get back out with that loaf of bread.
And that’s if you don’t get distracted when you run into John inside the store and start talking about this Saturday’s fishing trip. Three minutes can turn into fifteen before you know it.
Dogs have very limited ability to remove body heat. That’s why panting is so common with them (the cats reading this are saying they thought it was just an excuse for dogs to drool). You’ve heard it said that dogs can’t sweat, and, except for the tiny bit of sweat that comes from foot pads, that’s true. So, closing a dog up in a car with no air moving and the temperature soaring is a near-guarantee for a death sentence.
Summer can be fun, though. As summer approaches, make these plans for when the hot days arrive.
Take your dog for a nice walk. Go early or late, when it’s not so hot. If your pet is a water hound, spray him down with a neighbor’s hose while on your walking route. If that hose has been sitting in the sun, the first water to come out will be scalding hot. Let it run cool first.
Take two canteens of water along for him, and you, to have a drink, or to sprinkle on his head to cool him off.
And, while you’re walking, how about keeping your dog on a leash? Think of all the advantages. He won’t be able to run out in front of cars, chase cats, fight with other dogs whose owners are also out for a walk, or eat who-knows-what kind of smelly stuff he might find along the sidewalk.
Here’s another important tip for summertime: Sunscreen. No, don’t buy the stock! But do put a little sunscreen on your pet’s nose, lips and tips of ears if the skin or hair is light colored there. As with people, sunburn hurts, and can lead to cancers caused by radiation damage from the sun.
Moderation is important. Too much walking, going too far or too fast can lead to overheating or even heat stroke. In addition to walking during the cooler times of the day, don’t overdo it. Two short walks, one in the morning and one in the evening will be safer.
Breeds with short noses, such as Pekingese, Pugs, Shih Tzus, bulldogs and Boxers can’t move air as efficiently as the long-nosed breeds. The at-risk breeds shouldn’t take walks at all when there’s any risk of overheating. As with people, elderly and the sick dogs tolerate heat poorly.
Here are the warning signs that heat stroke may have occurred: excessive panting; rapid heartbeat; vomiting; weakness; warm, dry skin; collapse and loss of consciousness. If these signs appear, immerse the dog in tepid, not cold, water or shower him with the garden hose. Call your pet’s doctor immediately. Even when the outward signs of the heat stroke have subsided, fatal complications such as disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) may sneak up later and take your dog’s life.
Summer fun can be safe. Just take the above precautions along with you.