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Helping pets beat the heat

Animals should never be left in cars in the summer

July 12, 2012
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - If it's hot for humans, it's hot for pets, too.

Pet owners should be mindful of leaving their pets in cars on hot summer days, especially when temperatures creep into the 70s and 80s.

Thomas Cole, doctor of veterinary medicine at the Copper Country Veterinary Clinic in Houghton, said pets left in hot cars, even for a short time, can suffer heat stroke.

Article Photos

Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Deacon the cat is seen waiting in a car Tuesday afternoon. Pet owners should be mindful when traveling with pets, as cars can get too hot and pets can get heat stroke by being left in a hot car too long.

"It can be lethal," he said.

Despite leaving the car in the shade or cracking a window, the interior temperature in a car can reach into the 100s, he said - much too hot for pets who have limited ways of cooling themselves down.

"The problem with dogs is that they can't sweat," he said. "They start panting real hard and they salivate."

A dog's body temperature can stretch to 108 degrees, which is a dangerous situation and may require medical intervention. Even when running errands or even taking pets, such as cats, to be groomed or to the vet, it's important to not leave the animal alone in a hot car.

"Cats have the same problem," Cole said. "The only sweat glands in dogs and cats are little bitty small amounts of the nose and foot pads. So when people bring their cats in and they leave little paw prints on the table, that means they've got sweaty palms."

If a car is left out in the sun, and a steering wheel may be too hot for even a human to touch, it's also too hot for a pet to be left unattended.

"There's a good chance it's 110 degrees in that car," he said.

Cole said if it's 80 degrees outdoors, skip the exercise routine and only take pets outside to do bathroom business and quickly bring them back indoors. Some breeds, such as pugs and English bulldogs, will overheat at lower temperatures, as will older dogs.

"It's not 'one size fits all,'" he said. "It's just better to be safe than sorry."

Pet owners should look for signs of heat stroke in the summer, including heavy panting, hot fur when touched and a higher temperature taken with a rectal thermometer. Pet owners can wrap the dog in cool towels or spray them with water to help cool them down, he said.

"This time of year really makes me nervous when it comes to heat stroke," he said. "If you see a dog that can't walk and is really slobbering, foaming at the mouth, it's bad. They're distressed."

A way to keep cats cool in the summer is to leave them indoors at all times, and for dogs by maintaining grooming. A shorter coat will be much cooler for dogs, however, Cole advises against shaving dogs down to the skin.

"Think of hair as insulation," he said. "In the winter, it will help keep them warm. But if you scalp them right down to the skin, they'll get sunburned."

As long as the hair is about a half inch or a little longer, dogs will stay cooler without the risk of sunburn.



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