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Dog days of summer: Vets urge owners to safeguard pets


Kristin Mamrack



The dog days of summer are particularly dangerous for dogs, who are even more susceptible to heat stroke than humans, veterinarians warn, urging residents to protect their pets. 


"We probably see a couple of heat strokes a week," said Dr. Louis Bounds of Animal Medical Center East off Highway 69 South. "Often it''s fatal, because (cases of heat stroke are) not caught in time. 


"All dogs, with this high humidity, if they don''t have real deep shade to get into, will get into trouble," he warned. "Short-nosed dogs have a greater problem, because their cooling system doesn''t work quite as well as larger breeds." 


Dogs don''t sweat, which is how humans cool themselves, he noted. 


"The dog''s body is an air-cooled engine," Bounds explained. "When it is pulling 100 degrees into a 100-degree animal, it will overheat quickly. They don''t perspire like people do and therefore, (the dog) can only cool his body temperature down by panting." 


Under current weather conditions, a dog can get heat stroke after only 30 minutes outside, Bounds warned. 


"If you find a dog that is struggling and breathing very heavily, maybe to the point of collapse, the first thing is to get the dog in water, in a cool bath, immediately trying to cool the body temperature," he said.  


Dr. Karen Emerson of Village Animal Hospital in Starkville also warned pet owners walking their dogs to watch for signs of heat stroke, like slower movements, increased panting or redness around the eyes. 


"If the heat stroke is severe enough or the dog collapses, get to a veterinarian clinic," she said. "But if it looks like heat stroke is coming on, get the dog in a cool area and put it in a bathtub of cool water and get the dog cool fluids to drink." 


Experts warn using very cold water to initially cool a dog suffering from heat stroke can be counterproductive. Cooling a dog too quickly and allowing the dog''s body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. 


"Regular, cool tap water will get the job done.," Bounds said. "We will usually bring them in and put them on an (intravenous) drip and there are times we (later) will pack them on ice. If a dog has collapsed and is unable to stand up, it won''t hurt to get him wet and get moving to the closest veterinarian. 


"If a dog is outside, (he needs) shade and a fan," he added. "The dog should be shaded, by all means. There is no dog that can survive this weather, if they''re not under the shade." 


Never leave a dog in a car, "even for five minutes," in the summer and use caution when walking your dog, Emerson advised, urging pet owners to pay attention to signs the dog is suffering from heat stroke. 


"If the dog has severe heatstroke and they come in comatose and not conscious, we can get the temperature down, but the temperature center in the brain becomes faulty," she said. "I''d really like to push out to these (dog) owners, don''t let them get to the point they become comatose or make sure you exercise preventative measures, because it can lead to death, if the temperature center gets that messed up. The longer the temperature stays elevated, it decreases oxygen to the brain."




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