Hot weather can be more than just uncomfortable for four-legged friends. It can be deadly.
Keeping pets cool needs to be a priority for pet owners, because the alternative could be an expensive visit to the emergency vet to treat heat stroke, local experts say.
Early signs of heat-related health problems include excessive panting, bright red or dark red tongue and gums, bloody diarrhea, or vomiting. Symptoms progress to staggering, unresponsiveness, seizures, coma, and possibly death, said Dr. Debbie Johnson, a veterinarian and director of operations at the Toledo Area Humane Society in Maumee.
Short-nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, and Boston terriers are more prone to heat stroke, she said. Also, older pets or those with heart or respiratory problems are more sensitive to the heat.
“Owners should seek veterinary care immediately, as heat stroke can be life-threatening in a very short amount of time,” Dr. Johnson said.
If owners suspect heat stroke, they should get their pet out of the heat, spray the animal with cool — but not cold — water to lower body temperature, and offer cool water or ice cubes if the animal is drinking. Cold water should be avoided because it can cause blood-vessel constriction, which slows cooling.
“Even if the pet looks OK, they should still seek veterinary attention to be sure there are no secondary complications, which may not show externally but could be life-threatening as well,” she said.
Keeping pets cool so they don’t get to the point of needing veterinary care is a better idea, said Gary Willoughby, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society.
“Ideally, dogs should be kept inside full time, but if they must be outside, we would want to see good shelter for the dogs, with lots of shade and the ability to get out of the rain, should a storm come our way,” Mr. Willoughby said. “It’s very important to have lots of clean water that is kept in the shade in a bowl that isn't easily tipped over.”
If a dog must be outdoors, allowing it access to a garage or a covered porch where it can escape the heat and thunderstorms is important, he said. A box fan for the dog to sit in front of also can help.
“I would also add the importance of good shade/shelter and lots of fresh cool water for horses,” he said. “They need lots of water and shade to stay cool in the blazing sun and shelter in case of thunderstorms.”
Humane Society animal-cruelty officers have been investigating calls about dogs left in yards without access to sufficient shade and water. The humane society legally can’t break into cars, so they summon police assistance in response to calls of dogs left in cars, Mr. Willoughby said.
Temperatures soared into the lower 90s in the Toledo area Thursday for the fourth straight day, with the heat index reaching 100 at Toledo Express Airport during the afternoon.
The National Weather Service posted heat advisories for northwest Ohio and an excessive heat warning for southeast Michigan continuing into today.
People who have concerns about animals without shelter can report animal cruelty by emailing cruelty@ToledoAreaHumaneSociety.org or by calling the Cruelty Hotline at 419-891-9777.
To report dogs, other pets, or children left in cars, call 911.
The humane society and the Lucas County Dog Warden are trying to keep dogs they house cool. At the pound, there are child-sized pools in the outdoor area where dogs get walked and they can take a quick dip to cool off.
Both buildings are air conditioned and there are fans running.
“Dog areas have extra fans right now to help circulate the air better,” Mr. Willoughby said. “The volunteers take the dogs out often for walks, so a lot of hot air comes when they open the door, so the fans help the A/C to keep it cooler for everyone.”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.