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Summer: Your Car Is An Oven!!

By July 14, 2014 Blog

Our Mississauga veterinarians and team explain the dangers of summer heat for your pet.

As many dog owners know…leave your furry four-legged family members at home when you go out to run errands.

Lately all over the news you will hear about owners leaving their pets in the car while they run into the store to run an errand. Even though they leave the window down a bit to get “air” into the car, this is not enough. Owners have to think what would happen if they were to wear a fur coat and sit in a car with cracked windows…

Heatstroke: You most commonly see people affected by it, but it an affect your pets too!

How does this happen and How can it be avoided?

Sun + humidity = heatstroke…The inside of a car on a hot summer’s day can be lethal. Humidity interferes with any animal’s ability to rid themselves of excess body heat. When people overheat we sweat, and when the sweat dries it takes the excess heat with it. Our four-legged friends only sweat around their paws, which is not enough to cool the body. To rid themselves of excess heat, animals pant…air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.

The shape of an animal’s nasal passages can contribute to an animal’s tendency to overheat. Brachiocephalic (pug-nosed) dogs are more prone to heatstroke because their nasal passages are smaller and it’s more difficult for them to circulate sufficient air for cooling.

Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating because their extra layers of fat act as insulation, which traps heat in their bodies and restricts their breathing capabilities. Age can also be a factor in an animal’s tendency to overheat–very young animals may not have a fully developed temperature regulating system, and older pets’ organ systems may not be functioning at 100%, leaving them prone to heat-related damage.

Cracking the windows doesn’t cut it: Your car can become a death trap even on a mild sunny day and temperatures can gradually raise in the car to well above 120 degrees! Never, ever leave your pet inside the car. If they can’t come with you when you get out of the car, leave them at home.

Heatstroke is classified as a medical emergency. If you suspect an animal has heatstroke, you must act quickly and calmly. Have someone call a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime, you will need to lower the animal’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body.

Often the animal will respond after only a few minutes of cooling, only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling to well below what is normal. With this in mind, remember that it is imperative to get the animal to a veterinarian immediately. Once the animal is in the veterinarian’s care, treatment may include further cooling techniques, intravenous fluid therapy to counter shock, or medication to prevent or reverse brain damage.

Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention ~ animals relying on us to keep them out of harm’s way. Summer does not have to be a scary season ~ with proper planning, both you and your furry friends can enjoy those long, hot, dog-days of summer.

General Image - BoxerSigns of Heatstroke:

  • Panting
  • Staring
  • Anxious expression
  • Refusal to obey commands
  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

What are some other dangerous situations for your pets?

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

Precautions to take if your pet lives outdoors:

  • Ensure adequate shelter from sun/midday heat
  • Outdoor kennels should be well-ventilated and in the shade
  • Provide plenty of fresh water in a bowl that cannot be tipped over
  • Avoid excessive exercise on hot days
  • Talk with your local veterinarian to determine if your long-haired companion needs a summer haircut

Heatstroke is a deadly disease that can kill your beloved companion, even with emergency treatment. The best way to avoid this terrible situation is prevention, and it’s all up to you.

*Some content has been provided by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)


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