Animals suffer from summer's heat too

Barbara Hootman

A dog is tangled in the chain that tethers it. Its water bowl is out of reach (and empty), and there is no shade available.  The animal is a candidate for a heatstroke that more than likely will cost it its life. It can take hours for heatstroke to finally end the dog’s suffering.

For some 35 years, Marilyn Walker has worked as an animal advocate in Buncombe County. She has witnessed many dangerous situations that could have been prevented had the animal owners paid a  little attention.

“Chained dogs are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke because they can become tangled and unable to reach water or shade even if it is available," Walker said. "This happens when they are unattended. I have seen their bowls not just empty but turned over.  I have witnessed them with too warm water to drink and infested with mosquitoes.  They are too easily out of sight and out of mind and therefore suffer more."

If you see a dog in the hot sun with no protection and no water,  call Buncombe County Animal Control at 250-6430 or the Black Mountain Police at 669-6437.

"Runners with their dogs along to get exercise need to keep close check on the dogs, especially in hot weather," Walker said. "Remember that dogs don't perspire like humans and can't cool as quickly."

Walker suggests keeping road walks to a minimum during summer. "When the summer temperature is high, don’t let a dog linger on hot asphalt," she  said. "Sensitive paw pads can burn."

Hundreds of pets die yearly from being left in hot cars. There are no definite number of deaths because many go unreported. Even with the windows open, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes, according to The Humane Society of the United States. The longer the time lapses, the higher the temperature goes. Even on a 70-degree day, the inside of a vehicle can be as hot as 110 degrees. A vehicle can become a death trap for an animal in a matter of minutes. Research indicates that leaving the windows cracked makes no difference in the rising internal temperature.

Even if a dog or cat survives a heatstroke, there may be serious damage to internal organs like kidneys and liver. Symptoms of the damage begins to show up days after the stroke. If the weather forecast calls for a scorching hot day, leave the animals inside your home with the air conditioner going.

Dr. Otto Sharp, owner of Swannanoa Valley Animal Hospital, has some tips for pet owners so their animals need not suffer summer’s heat problems.

“Make sure the dog or cat has a bowl or bowls of fresh water,” Sharp said.  “Your outside dog needs a lot of shade and a baby pool to play in.  Get the cheap, inexpensive, hard plastic one.  Brush out the dog's undercoat ... with a ‘FURminator’-type brush. This is especially important for Huskies, Collies and Labs that have thick undercoats. Think of yourself changing from a heavy winter quilt to a lighter summer throw for your bed.”

Kate Shawgo hangs out in the shade with Boon, her Labrador Retriever. He has a kiddie pool if he chooses to cool off.

Shaving animals can make summer’s heat worse or it can provide comfort.  It all depends on how much hair you take off the pet, veterinarians said.

“I recommend that all outside pets have their bellies areas (chest to groin) shaved down to the skin," Sharp said. "They won’t get sunburn on their undersides, and it helps relieve heat, especially while they lay in cool, shaded dirt or after getting wet in the baby pool.  In dogs like Collies and Shelties with long thick coats, have a groomer shave back some of their coat, but leave enough - about 1.5 inches - to prevent sunburn. Thickness and coat color dictate the length of canine summer hair.  Darker and thicker coats can be left shorter.  Dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, Shihtzus and overweight and older pets with heart issues have a harder time cooling down.  Their respiratory systems can’t move enough air with panting to cool themselves, and they can easily become over-heated and suffer heatstroke.”

Cats do not tolerate excessive heat any better than dogs do.

If you find your cat prostrate in the driveway, panting with unfocused eyes, cool him or her  down with a cool water soak (do not use cold water). Hold the cat’s mouth and nose above the water.  Wrap the cat in a towel with ice in a bag between the hind legs area and head for the closest veterinarian for treatment.

Dogs drink a lot more water than cats, but both need to be kept well-hydrated in hot weather. If you can’t take a pet inside with you, leave it at home where it is comfortable, cool and safe.

Symptoms of a pet overheating

Excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, collapse, seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit,  body temperature above 104 degrees for a dog or 107.5 for a cat

Source: The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals