K9 Corner: Don’t leave your dog inside your car when it’s hot
I worry about young children and dogs being left in cars these hot, humid days. Although this subject has been covered before, since ignoring the danger can result in brain damage or death of the child or animal, it is worth another column.
The normal temperature of dogs is between 100 and 102.5 degrees. An increase of even a few degrees is harmful and, depending on the duration, can cause an agonizing death.
To quote from the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook: “Dogs do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans. They depend upon rapid breathing to exchange warm (internal) air for cool air. Accordingly, when the air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by rapid breathing is not an efficient process.”
The handbook gives some of the ways a dog can become overheated, which may result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke as:
• Being left in a parked car in hot weather. (The car’s temperature can climb over 105 degrees in a matter of minutes which is hotter than the dog’s body temperature.)
• Being confined on concrete runs, or chained without shade in hot weather.
• Being of a short-nosed breed, such as a bulldog or pug.
Since dogs have only a few sweat glands located in the pads of their feet, there is no way these animals can cool themselves if they are muzzled, which prevents panting.
Panting results in evaporation of water from the pharynx, tongue and upper respiratory tract. Because of this evaporation, the dog must have access to clean, cool water to prevent dehydration. The cool (not cold) water helps lower the body temperature. High humidity slows evaporation.
Other factors that contribute to heat stroke are: type of fur, animal’s age, temperament, (a nervous, high-strung dog will be more susceptible to heat stroke), degree of obesity, general health and, of course, the availability of shade and cool water.
Symptoms of heat stroke include noisy, rapid breathing, bright red tongue, thick saliva, high rectal temperature and vomiting. If the conditions continue, the dog will stagger, start having bloody diarrhea, slip into a coma and die.
Treatment is considered emergency level. If caught early, move the dog to a cooler area, such as an air conditioned room. If the animal’s temperature is over 104 degrees, or it is exhibiting any of the advanced symptoms, immerse the dog in a tub of cool water or give a cold water soak with a garden hose. If your pet seems on the verge of collapse, wrap him in towels soaked in really cold water and race him to the veterinarian.
Some recommendations for prevention are:
• Do not expose dogs to prolonged heat. This includes leaving the dog in the back of the pick-up truck on the hot metal bed.
• Restrict exercise during the heat of the day in summer.
• Provide shade and cool water to dogs living outdoors in runs.
• Use extra care with puppies and dogs over 8 years old.