As a heat wave envelopes the Lower Mainland, a local vet and the BC SPCA are warning people about pet safety when it comes to the rising temperatures.
Last year the BC SPCA responded to more than 800 calls about animals in distress in hot cars, said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of communications for the BC SPCA, adding that the temperature in a parked car – even in the shade with windows partially open – can rapidly reach a level that can seriously harm or even kill a pet.
Dr. Bhupinder Johar, with Haney Animal Hospital, sees at least two to five cases every summer of an animal suffering from the heat, with July being the worst month.
However, he explained, most of the cases he sees are dogs that have been running or playing excessively in the hot sun.
What pet owners are not aware of is that even exercise on a sunny day can cause their dogs to become dehydrated, pant, and suffer from heatstroke, said Dr. Johar, even if they think they are playing in a shady area.
Dogs cannot sweat, he explained. The only way they can lose their body heat is by panting.
“So, that puts more stress on their breathing system,” added Johar, especially dogs with short nostrils like pugs or bull dogs.
And, the veterinarian noted, an animal’s fur works as an insulator and does not let the heat escape easily, making their body temperatures rise very quickly.
Johar recommends dog owners, if taking their pets outside in the coming heat wave, to have plenty of cold drinking water available for their pooch and to bring a cooling instrument, like a fan, with them.
Chortyk is hoping that pet guardians will leave their animals at home when running errands on a hot day, especially if they know they will have to leave them in a parked vehicle, even for a few minutes.
“Dogs cannot withstand high temperatures for long periods,” she reiterated, especially older pets and those with compressed faces.
Every summer, she added, SPCA officers are called out to the worst case situations where a pet is in critical distress or has died because they were left in a hot car.
“It is a completely preventable tragedy for both the poor animal and their distraught guardian,” she noted.
Symptoms of heat stroke include: exaggerated panting or the sudden stopping of panting; rapid or erratic pulse; salivation; anxious or staring expression; weakness and muscle tremors; lack of coordination or convulsions; vomiting; or collapse.
If an animal shows any of the above signs, Chortyk advises a pet owner to: immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place; wet the dog with cool water; fan vigorously to promote evaporation in order to cool the blood which reduces the animal’s core temperature; allow the animal to drink some cool water, or lick some ice cream if no water is available; and then to take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
She warns not to apply ice to the animal as it constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.
If a dog is in distress in a parked vehicle she advises people, depending on the situation, to either note the license plate and vehicle information and ask the managers of nearby businesses to page the owner – or – to call the BC SPCA, animal control or a law enforcement agency, noting that it is illegal for a member of the public to break a window to access the vehicle themselves.
Dr. Johar wants people to be very careful in the coming days.
“Even if the windows are down (in a vehicle) and it is airy, still it is hot like oven and that can kill within two or three minutes, the dog can pass away by the time they think they will be back.”
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