Pet experts provide tips on preventing heat exhaustion

Rigby, an 11-month-old beagle-spaniel mix, drinks water to stay cool Monday at Kiwanis Park in St. Joseph. Experts are reminding pet owners to make sure pets stay cool, with high temperatures around 90 expected over the next week. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff Writer)

Rigby, an 11-month-old beagle-spaniel mix, drinks water to stay cool Monday at Kiwanis Park in St. Joseph. Experts are reminding pet owners to make sure pets stay cool, with high temperatures around 90 expected over the next week. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff Writer)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN COUNTY — With temperatures soaring to their highest peaks of the summer, pet owners are being reminded to take steps to prevent their furry friends from overheating.

Dr. Anne Cepela, who works at the Freeway Veterinary Clinic in Stevensville, said dogs are not as good at cooling themselves because they don’t sweat. Dogs lose heat at a slower rate through their respiratory system and the pads in their feet.

“They do this by panting,” Cepela said. “They can overheat quickly, so they need to be out of the sun, in the shade or in the house if that’s manageable. A wadding pool is good for keeping their body temperature down as well.”

Berrien County Animal Control Manager Val Grimes said the best thing for pet owners to do is to leave them at home with food and water.

Grimes said in order to avoid leaving them outside for more than a regular workday, animal control has kennels available for rent in the afternoon.

“We prefer them to be inside or in a cool basement. But if animals are left outside, they need to be where it is dark, with plenty of water and shade,” Grimes said. “Tying them to a tree will not cut it. They need protection from the rain, heat and flies.”

Grimes said pets should be taken out in the early morning or at dusk during warmer days. If it’s during the day, Grimes said they cannot be outside for more than 15 minutes without water.

No breed is more acclimated than another when it comes to warmer weather, though Cepela said black dogs and cats have a special need to remain cool, as their fur retains a lot of heat.

Signs of a heat stroke include severe panting and lethargy, which ultimately could lead to the animal collapsing. Should this occur, run a hose over the animal and get them to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

Simple things like adding ice cubes in their water can go a long way, Cepela said. Dogs that are predominantly outside need to have shade and a clean source of cold water.

“On a sunny day, they shouldn’t be where they can’t get out of the sun,” Cepela said. “They are going to get hot just as fast or faster than you are.”

A car is a dangerous place

Cepela said it’s unbelievable the short amount of time it takes for the sun to warm up a vehicle to unbearable conditions for animals.

“It’s the sun, not just the temperature. That’s what some people don’t understand,” Cepela said. “You can have a dog overheat in a car in the wintertime for that reason. If you’ve got a closed-up car and the sun is shining in, it can get very hot, very quickly.”

Grimes said her department gets calls on a daily basis for dogs being left in cars.

“People run in for a few minutes and think it doesn’t matter,” she said. “People are alert to it nowadays and you will be called on. Pay attention and leave them at home. Common sense goes a long way.”

Dog owners often find themselves in a predicament because while they are told dogs should not be in the heat, they still require daily exercise.

Justina Spicer understands the concept and feels she has a way around that.

The St. Joseph Township resident often takes her 11-month-old dog to Kiwanis Park, which offers shade and a dog water fountain. She said Rigby, her beagle-spaniel mix, runs around regardless of how warm it is.

“He likes to run, so I normally take him out here in the morning when its cooler,” she said. “He can’t be cooped up for long. There are enough shaded areas here where it is not too bad on him.

“You have to think about the heat and its effect on pavement,” Spicer said, “so I try to go in areas with grass.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 28, 2015)

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