The hot summer days of summer are upon us, and that means taking care of ourselves, and our pets. It is important for pet owners to ensure their animals’ comfort and well-being in the heat of the summer; animals are especially at risk for heat stroke and other complications from the heat.
Kevin Usilton, Director of Development and Public Relations for the First State Animal Center and SPCA, urges pet owners to never leave their pet in a parked car, not even for a minute. “On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes,” he said. “After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. The pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.” He adds that keeping the engine running with the air conditioning on for a few moments is also dangerous for the animal, and harmful to the environment. Usilton recommended that the pet be kept at home inside, or in an enclosed yard with shade and access to plenty of fresh, cool water. “As much as many dogs love to ride in the car with their owners, hot summer days are not appropriate for car rides around town, unless you are going to the veterinarian for a scheduled appointment,” he says.
Usilton said that bystanders can help a pet left in a hot car by doing the following: Take down the car’s make, model and license-plate number. If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. If the owner cannot be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive. Delaware Animal Care and Control can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 698-3006, option 1.
Provide ample shade and clear, cool water if the pet must remain outside. Add ice to the pet’s water to keep it cool. A dog house, while it is important to have if the pet is outside, does not always provide ample protection from the heat – in fact, it can make the risk worse as it is an enclosed small structure with not much escape for hot air and not enough ventilation. The dog house structure must be in a shaded area if being used. Also, dogs can get sunburned. Let the dog lie in a dog or baby pool in cool water in the shade to keep body temperature down in scorching temperatures.
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness. Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, and overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs, like boxers, pugs, bull dogs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
Usilton recommends that if citizens find animals trapped inside cars or if they find pets languishing in the heat without appropriate shade and water, to please Delaware Animal Care and Control at (302) 698-3006, option 1, for guidance. He encouraged anyone who may know of situations involving animal cruelty or other animal neglect to contact DEACC at 302-698-3006, option 1.