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Parked cars no place for pets

July 21, 2011
The Daily Mining Gazette

The recent hot weather here in the Copper Country has been bad enough for human beings who can make their own decisions. Imagine that heat increased tenfold, and being trapped and defenseless against it.

That's what our pets have to put up with when left in a parked car while their caregivers run into Walmart or Econo Foods, as seen this past weekend in Houghton.

Whether it's "just for a moment," and regardless of whether "a window is cracked," pets should never be left alone in a parked vehicle, warns the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time - even with the windows open - which could lead to fatal heat stroke," says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.

Incidentally, 14 states have enacted laws making it illegal to leave a dog in a parked car. Michigan, sadly, is not among them.

However, while not all states have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, numerous local ordinances prohibit it. And recently in Texas, a defendant who left his dog in a car on a hot day to watch a movie in a theater was convicted of animal cruelty despite the fact that Texas does not specifically address that prohibition.

Moving away from that soapbox, there are ways pet owners can help prevent pets from overheating.

Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of more than 104 degrees.

Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These species, along with elderly or overweight animals and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it's hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it's extremely hot.

Giving your dog a lightweight summer haircut helps prevent overheating. Shave down to a 1-inch length, never to the skin, so your dog still has some protection from the sun. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat.

As far as skin care, be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

When the temperature is very high, don't let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

When traveling, use the ASPCA's Petweather App to know what kind of weather your furry friend can expect for your location, and will give an alert if weather conditions make it uncomfortable or dangerous for your pet to be outside.



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