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May 28, 2014

Beware of heat-related maladies with canines

THOMASVILLE — It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation.

Thomas County Animal Control Director Pat Smith said animal control is receiving complaints about dogs being left in vehicles with little or no ventilation.

“I want to raise awareness about this problem before the really hot days approach us,” Smith said.

She said most people do not realize how hot it becomes in a parked vehicle, particularly if a vehicle is parked on asphalt in a non-shaded parking lot. On a 78-degree day, temperatures in a parked vehicle in shade can exceed 90 degrees and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.

Heat stroke symptoms in dogs include:

• Heavy panting

• Bright-red mucous membranes

• Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth

• Whining, barking or other anxious behavior

• Vomiting and diarrhea

• Confusion and a lack of coordination — the dog might collapse and be unable to stand

• Uncontrolled tremors

• Seizures

• Death

Rolling down a window or parking in shade does not guarantee protection, since temperatures can still climb into the danger zone. If the window is rolled down sufficiently, the pet can escape.

Also, Smith said, if a passer-by is bitten through the vehicle window, the pet owner could be held liable.

“Even leaving your pet in a vehicle with the air-conditioning running could mean tragedy if the vehicle shuts down and begins blowing hot air. The air system’s compressor kicks off because the engine got too hot,” Smith explained.

Animals are not able to sweat like humans. Dogs cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paws. If they have only overheated air to breath, animals can collapse, suffer brain damage and possibly die of heatstroke.

Just 15 minutes can be enough for an animal’s body temperature to climb from a normal 102.5 to deadly levels that will damage or kill them.

Smith realizes people like to have their pets with them when they are out, but often a quick trip to the store can change for a variety of reasons, and animals left in the vehicles pay the price physically.

Animal control officers are equipped with thermometers for checking inside and outside a vehicle to illustrate how hot it can become for an unattended animal. Animal control officers also will educate pet owners at the scene.

Citations for inhumane treatment and warrants for cruelty to animals are possible.

Leaving animals outdoors without shelter is as dangerous as leaving them inside a hot car.

“Be sure they are not left in a cage in the hot sun, on a chain in the backyard or outdoors in a run without sufficient shade or air circulation. You should always have water in both a vehicle and outside where the dogs can reach them,” Smith said,

She added, “Do not put water in the hot sun. Water containers should be kept in a shaded area at all times. Make sure water containers are large enough to meet a dog’s size needs. Make sure you check on the water a couple times a day. Dogs that are tethered often get tangled up and are not able to reach their water.”

Smith said pet owners should use common sense and be responsible for pets.

Anyone seeing a dog in distress in a vehicle should call 911.

 

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