07/11/10 — When mercury rises, pets need help staying safe

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When mercury rises, pets need help staying safe

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 11, 2010 1:50 AM

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Bridget Behrens-Douglas, owner of Cuts-4-Mutz, grooms Blizzard in her shop. She says proper grooming is key to keeping animals safe in the heat.

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Ross Head Jr. holds the lead to Fancy, an American Paint Horse, while his son Wilson gives her a bath to cool her off at the their stable in Mount Olive.

Humans aren't the only ones feeling the heat this summer as temperatures climb into triple-digit misery.

Animals suffer in extreme weather, too, and the dog days of July and August can be dangerous if pet owners aren't vigilant, experts say.

Bringing a pet inside a cool garage, bathroom or smaller room for the hottest days of summer are the safest options, even if the animal does not live indoors the rest of the year, Berkeley Veterinary Clinic veterinarian Maria Evans said.

Goldsboro roommates and pet owners Kayla Mitchum and Paige Mallory have three dogs, and along with their two cats, they are beating the heat by keeping their animals indoors. It's safer for their pets to be inside year-round, the Pet Supplies "Plus" employees said.

"They don't go outside, they're all inside dogs," Ms. Mallory said.

If it its not possible to bring a pet inside, offering a way for the animal to cool off outside is crucial, Ms. Evans said. Shaded shelter in the coolest part of the yard and plenty of fresh water are necessities for outdoor pets that can't be brought inside.

Cats that live outdoors are more difficult to monitor, because they tend to hide during the hottest parts of the day, the veterinarian said. However, they also need plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated.

One of the biggest threats to animals during the summer months is also one of the easiest to prevent. It's always better to leave a pet at home rather than take them for a ride in the car if they will have to be left alone in the vehicle in hot weather.

"Definitely, if you take your dog on a trip or if you're out running errands, don't leave them in the car," Ms. Evans said.

Cars can be deadly for animals in summertime when sunshine can turn a vehicle into an oven in minutes, she added.

Already, local veterinarians are seeing cases of heat stroke from pets left inside vehicles. Even leaving a window rolled down, or the car running with the air conditioner on might not be enough on extremely hot days to ensure that a pet will be all right.

Dogs do not sweat through their skin the way humans do, relying instead on panting to cool off when they become overheated. A dog's normal body temperature is about 101 degrees. If a dog is restless, panting heavily, drooling or has glassy-looking eyes after being exposed to high temperatures, it's time to be worried about heat stroke and call a vet, Ms. Evans said.

And just as a person shouldn't be active during the hottest part of the day, it's better to walk or play with a dog early in the morning or in the evening after the temperature has cooled.

When it's too hot out for their Chihuahua, terrier mix and husky mix, Ms. Mitchum and Ms. Mallory take precautions to keep them safe when they do have to go out during the day, Ms. Mitchum said.

"Stay in the shade, give them adequate water," she said.

And there are also a few helpful products, like a collar designed to be cooled in a freezer, that offer dogs a little extra relief from the heat, Ms. Mallory said.

Keeping pets safe also takes vigilance. Even if a dog is bounding happily after a ball in hot weather, he or she might not be as immune to the heat as they seem. Dogs with a high drive to play, such as retrievers, are more prone to overdoing it and can easily become overheated. It is up to the owner to keep an eye on the animal and decide when it's time to take a break, Ms. Evans said.

"Sometimes people will think, 'Well, they seem fine, like they wanted to play, so they continue to play. I just thought they would stop if they got tired.' But very energetic dogs will play and run themselves to exhaustion."

This summer marks the first time that dog owners in Goldsboro will not be allowed to tether their dogs outdoors. The Goldsboro City Council passed an anti-tethering ordinance in March. It went into effect July 1.

Tethering, defined in the ordinance as "tying out or fastening outdoors on a rope, chain or similar restraint to any stationary or inanimate object including a cable trolley system for holding an animal within a certain area outside the home or on an attended leash."