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Local vet: Protect pets from heat

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 8:01 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:48 p.m. CDT
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(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Pets should not be left in the car during the hot weather regardless of how far the windows are left down.

MORRIS – With summer in Illinois comes hot and humid weather, both of which can be potentially deadly to the family pet.

“At this time of year it only takes a couple of minutes in a car for a dog to become frantic and be in danger,” Dr. Megan Bauer with the Animal Care Hospital in Morris said. “Just last week, when outside temperatures were in the 70s and 80s, we had someone leave a dog in the car while they brought in their other one to be checked. In the time it took to be checked in and placed in a room, we were made aware of the other dog in the car. It was maybe five minutes and the dog’s temperature was already 105.”

According to the humane society website, www.humanesociety.org, it’s not safe to leave pets in the car, not even for a minute.

“Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die,” the website states.

The car isn’t the only place animals can become overheated and distressed. It can happen even in the backyard.

Bauer said owners should watch for obvious signs of distress, such as panting, listlessness, lack of coordination or the inability to arise.

“You may see G.I. signs such as diarrhea and vomiting,” Bauer said.

She said people should not allow the dog to become engorged on water because it can cause nausea and bloating.

Recently, an urban legend has been making its way around the Internet and has popped up on several Facebook feeds referencing a dog dying from consuming ice, stating that owners should not allow their dogs to have ice during the summer months.

Bauer said the temperature of the water has nothing to do with it, and if there is any truth to the story it may be because the dog was allowed too much water too quickly.

“If ice were a problem for dogs, we’d see more of a problem in the winter months when dogs, especially farm dogs, are drinking from frozen streams and water dishes,” she said.

She said large dogs are more prone to bloating due to the extra room in their chest cavity.

Another way dogs become overheated in the summer is by running and walking with their owners. Bauer suggests that if you are going to take your pet on a walk or run, you should choose a cooler time of day.

In addition to overheating, walking or running dogs on asphalt or concrete can cause ulcerated or broken pads from burns.

She said last year she treated five cases of burned pads, which can not only be very painful but slow to heal. Owners can look online for special booties for their pets that may protect them from the heat.

Bauer said some animals also are prone to sunburn if they are a light-colored dog or have been shaved due to a procedure, or just in an attempt to keep them cool during the summer months.

“Depending on the severity of the sunburn the animal should be seen by their vet to see if they need a prescription to treat it,” she said.

Owners can purchase sunscreen for their pets online and it should be used on the top of their nose and any area that is shaved.

“People need to be conscious of how long their pets are outside with no shade or ability to cool themselves down.”

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