deadly in just a few minutes, so don’t leave your pet inside your vehicle.
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Arden Moore
In Palm Beach County, August typically marks the month where hot merits capital letters in importance — and annoyance.
Anyone — including our pets — can become overheated and suffer from heat stroke in a matter of minutes. Untreated, pets can go into cardiac arrest and die.
Take the case of a 5-year-old French bulldog who was visiting Boynton Beach from Naples last summer. During the drive across the state, his owner glanced in his rearview mirror and discovered that his beloved dog was not moving. He steered his car directly into the parking lot at the Colonial Animal Hospital in Boynton Beach for emergency medical help.
“When this dog entered our clinic, he had a 107-degree fever (100.5 to 102.5 is the range for a healthy dog) and was suffering from shock and severe heatstroke,” recalls Rob Martin, DVM, veterinarian and owner of this clinic and the Colonial Gateway Veterinary Center, also in Boynton Beach. “Most people know about not leaving a dog inside a closed car in a parking lot — even with the windows cracked — but this was a case of a dog overheating in a moving car with the windows down in the heat of the summer. This was not an uncaring or neglectful owner, but it demonstrates just how quickly a pet can overheat.”
Fortunately, this French bulldog survived. He underwent intensive, lifesaving care at Martin’s clinic. He was cooled down upon arrival and received intravenous fluids to combat the shock and heatstroke he suffered during the car ride. He was rehydrated and his electrolyte imbalance was corrected. The next day, he was reunited with his owner.
Sadly, veterinarians throughout Palm Beach County expect to be treating far too many dogs, cats and other pets for heat-related conditions this month.
“Most dogs in South Florida live indoors and are used to living in environments between 72 and 74 degrees,” notes Martin. “They have no heat tolerance and they definitely should never be left in a parked car, even for a few minutes while their owner stops in a store to run a quick errand.”
Martin, whose family shares their home with five dogs and three cats, shares this advice for protecting your dog during walks this summer.
“Do the palm test first,” he says. “If you place your palm on the pavement and it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your dog’s paws. Our dogs are more used to walking on carpet in air-conditioned townhouses and should not be taken for a 2-mile walk on pavement during the heat of the day. They can lose tissue off the bottom of their feet and the paw pad surface can die and then would need to be treated as an open wound.”
So, time your walks in the early morning and after the sun sets in the evening. And always bring water and a collapsible small bowl for your dog to stay hydrated during the walk.
And, seek immediate veterinary care if your pet displays any or all of these signs of heat exhaustion:
• Bright red gums
• Excessive salivation
• Dilated pupils with a panic look on the face
• Excessive panting and difficulty breathing
• Collapsing or convulsing
• Vomiting and diarrhea
“Dogs and cats cool themselves through breathing (panting) and they only sweat through their feet,” explains Martin. “They can get sick in a real hurry from heat exposure. And indoor cats who like to nap in sunny spots indoors can have problems with corneal lesions in our latitude.”
If your dog or cat shows signs of being overheated, do not jolt their systems by putting them in icy water. Instead, place their paws in cool water and wrap their bodies in wet cool towels en-route to a veterinary clinic.
“If you try to cool them too quickly with ice, you can cause shock,” warns Dr. Martin.
Final advice: Do not give your thick-coated dogs a buzz haircut.
I share my home with Chipper, a husky-golden retriever mix who sheds a lot. But I realize that her coat is designed to keep her cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Shaving her coat puts her at risk for sunburn and heat exhaustion because she cannot regulate her body temperature as well.
If you have a dog or cat with a thick coat, have a professional pet groomer trim and leave about an inch of hair. At home, keep your pet cool in the summer by stepping up your brushing and combing sessions.
Heating up in a car
So, how hot does it get in a parked car for a dog — even with the windows opened a bit? Check out this video from nationally known veterinarian Ernie Ward, DVM.
He sat inside a parked car as the temperature inside reached 116 degrees within a half-hour.
Watch how quickly his clothes and body get soaked.
To view this video, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbOcCQ-y3OY or visit www.thecoastalstar.ning.com.
Check out the services provided by Rob Martin, DVM, at his two clinics in Boynton Beach — Colonial Animal Hospital and Colonial Gateway Veterinary Center — at www.colonialanimalhospital.com.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.