Yesterday while I was sitting in the salon getting my hair done, finally, my phone made this cute little noise that I’d never heard before. I opened it and there were 3 different alerts on my screen. WOAW. What in the world is it alerting me about that I need 3? I open them and there was one that said location alert, alert for our home town and one for where my dad and the rest of my family lives. I have an app on my phone called weather bug, and I have the weather set for where my family lives for when we travel there so I know what the weather will be like, for our home town and for whatever location we may be at any given time. I open the first alert for where my family lives, heat advisory, then I open the one for our home town and it says excessive heat watch. Our heat watch says that the heat indexes could get to 110 on Thursday, yuck. I don’t mind the heat but that’s a little…..excessive, yep that hits the nail on the head. Then I started thinking about when I worked in the clinic and how much we would dread those kind of days.
People tend to not use common sense, or not care when it gets this hot out and they have animals. I only experienced it a few times, but the first summer I worked at the clinic everyone kept preparing me for the outrageous amounts of dogs that are going to show up over the summer and have heat stroke. So every time I heard that the temperature was going to be high for the day I would psych myself up for a heck of a ride at work with urgent cares and emergencies involving heat stroke patients. Luckily I only had a few run inns in the two years I was there. The first one was so avoidable and not bright on the owners part in the least bit, it was one of those where you want to look at them and go “were you not blessed with common sense or are you just stupid.” But obviously that kind of sounds a little heartless and not mention totally unprofessional. I remember it like it was yesterday. The dog had come in to be sedated for x-rays and he needed to be sedated because he was a very large dog and wasn’t exactly cooperative when it came to laying him on his back and attempting to get pictures of his hips. So we gave him a cocktail that would get him a little sleepier and make our jobs easier at taking the x-rays. I didn’t feel like getting thrown across the room that day and neither did the tech helping me. Once pictures were taken and he had woke up from the sedation the owners picked him up. We went over the discharge instructions; the he’s gonna be a little sleepy kind of out of it just get him home and let him rest schpeal. They loaded up and left and I went back to helping where ever I was needed. About 30 minutes later all hell breaks loose. The owners bring the dog back because he’s thrown up, he’s panting and won’t get out of the vehicle and “there’s just something wrong with him.” So I run and grab a rolling table to put him on and run outside with another tech and doctor. We pick his hundred and some pound body up and get him on the table and rush him into the clinic. We take his temp… 108. Now normal for a dog is about 102, that’s the high end of normal, so this dogs body was cooking. We start scrambling looking for towels and soaking them in cold water, spraying him with alcohol to pull the heat out and everything we possibly can to lower his body temp before his organs start shutting down. We asked what happened and we get this response, “I had to make a quick stop before I had to go home so I ran in the store, but only for 15 minutes.” Well for one the dog had just been sedated, right there you should’ve taken him home to a cool area and let him rest, then went and ran your errands. Second the size of the dog and heat are hard on them enough, leaving a dog of that size in the heat is never a good idea. Lastly, leaving a dog in a car for 15 minutes when it’s not running and it’s already hot outside, the temp in that car can jump another 20 degrees in a matter of 15-20 minutes which in turn increases your dogs temperature. Luckily we managed to get the dogs temp back to normal in a matter of 30-45 minutes and the dog walked out of the clinic a few days later after being hospitalized and having major organs monitored. He was very lucky to make it without any extreme damage or worse. But I bet that owner will never leave their dog in the car ever again.
It shouldn’t take that happening for someone to learn not to do it. It should be common sense. If you were waiting in a car for someone would you sit there without the AC on when it’s already hotter than hell outside? No you wouldn’t because it could potentially kill you. It should be no different with an animal, and cracking the window doesn’t justify anything. What if there is no breeze, even if there is a breeze that car once it is parked in the hot sun will turn into an over sized oven. But every year hundreds of dogs die still because people for some reason or another think it is ok to leave their dogs in the car while they “just run into the store for a second.” It’s usually not a second, it’s more like minutes and honestly that’s all it takes. The American Veterinary Medical Association website has an article specifically for pets in vehicles that talks about leaving pets in the car on hot days and just car safety with a pet in general if you are interested in learning more. I also copied their temperature chart for vehicles in the summer months which is below.
Heat stroke doesn’t just happen to dogs left in cars either. It can happen if you leave them outside in the direct sun light without any shade or enough water. If you have outside dogs that need to be kenneled or leashed here is my best advice. If the kennel isn’t in the shade, find something to shade it, take a blanket and put it over the top of the kennel, find a large umbrella that will shade it anything you can think of to get shade on that kennel do it. It doesn’t have to be the entire kennel but if you are gone during the day and they are in the kennel I use to suggest a blanket, because the sun does move and the shade will be in different spots. If you don’t have that kennel covered enough they may only have a few hours of shade. Putting a blanket over the top ensures that somewhere in that kennel there will be shade at all times. Also leave A LOT of water. I used to tell clients to fill an ice cream pail with water and put it somewhere that they can’t dump it. Also if you can set up a fan to blow on the kennel that helps. If you let them run in your backyard and have plenty of trees the shade is taken care of, just make sure they have access to PLENTY of water. If you don’t have trees for shade again create something so they have somewhere to get out of the sun. I’ve heard of people taking large boxes and making a make shift dog house or taking the Styrofoam coolers and making a temporary dog house with those. Anything you can do to ensure that your pet has access to shade do it, because I don’t think you want to come home to a dog that is struggling to hang on to life or worse because of heat stroke. Be considerate of your pets if it’s too hot for you it’s too hot for them. They are family too and should be treated as such. Not only are you being considerate of your pets/family members and taking care of them properly, you’re helping out your vet team to not have to scramble and fight to keep your pet alive. When you take the proper precautionary measures it’s easier on your pocket book too. Everyone stay safe in this heat wave, and try not to complain about it too much, because in just a few short months that white crap will be on the ground again :-S
*Please note that the way our clinic decreased the dog’s body temperature above was done by professionals. Every single person involved in decreasing that temp had gone to school and has been professionally trained in how to lower body temperature in animals. By no means should anyone outside of the vet field attempt to lower their pets body temperature. If you don’t know how to do it properly you could do more harm than good. The animals need to be very closely monitored. If you think your dog maybe experiencing heat stroke you need to take them to the vet IMMEDIATELY, and make a courtesy call to let them know your on your way so they can be ready for you when you arrive. Signs and Symptoms of heat stroke are: panting, dehydration, excessive drool, reddened gums, rapid heart rate, irregular heart beat, vomiting blood, blood in stool, black tarry stool, changes in mental status, seizures, muscle tremors,and when they walk they look drunk (ataxic).
(Photo credit to heatkills.com)
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