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When the ‘dog days’ come early

By AL SWANSON   |   June 12, 2011 at 5:34 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, June 12 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin man who left his pet dog inside a hot car in 93-degree weather Monday was ticketed for leaving an animal in a car for more than 15 minutes.

Police say the shepherd mix was in the car with the windows cracked a little more than 30 minutes, long enough for the car to heat up to more than 100 degrees. Passersby called officers who opened the vehicle's doors and let the panting dog get some fresh air.

"Cars heat up extremely fast," Madison, Wis., Police Sgt. Linda Covert told The Capital Times. "Parking in the shade, or cracking the windows, won't necessarily prevent your pet from dying."

The "Dog Days" have come early in much of the United States this year, coupled with natural disasters like drought, wildfires, tornadoes and floods, stressing both man and beast.

The temperature in the Great Lakes states, normally temperate in early June, soared into the upper 90s making even a simple dog walk challenging. My dogs went outside but quickly headed for the shade of a tree or a pool of water left by the sprinkler for a quick time out.

Neither dogs nor cats sweat like humans, and they are only able to expend heat through panting and their paw pads.

"Pets can suffer from the heat just like we can," Coulee Region Humane Society Executive Director Heather Schmid told WEAU-TV, La Crosse, Wis. "So they can definitely suffer from heat stroke. There have been animals that have died from being outdoors too long."

The Golden Rule is: If it's too hot to you outside, it's too hot for your pets, too.

The normal body temperature of a cat or dog is 100 to 103 degrees.

Just like cars, pets with darker-colored coats heat up faster, especially if they are furry and haven't undergone summer grooming.

Other good advice includes providing animals with fresh water and shade during extreme temperatures. Providing access to a cooler area of the house, like a basement, can be just the ticket for helping a pet beat the heat. Keep outside exercise to a minimum during a heat wave, especially if direct sun has baked the sidewalk, sand, soft tar or asphalt on the streets.

June is a bit early for midsummer survival tips in northern U.S. states, but with the heat on, everyday outside activities like midday walking or jogging have to be re-evaluated for risk of dehydration, respiratory distress, sunburn or heat stroke. If an older larger breed dog limps or refuses to walk, immediately get the animal out of the heat.

If a pet exhibits rapid panting, is hot to the touch, has a dark red tongue or gums, vomits or has an anxious or blank gaze, it is overheated. Offer it cool water or ice cubes and get it to an emergency veterinary hospital if it does not respond.

Like the motorist in Madison learned, in many municipalities leaving a pet inside a hot car or tied up in the hot sun is considered cruelty to animals and is a crime.

Vets also warn hot dry weather is perfect for blood-sucking fleas and ticks.

"Dryness is going to drive them (bugs) to more central points," environmental health expert Brenda Eldord told KXAN-TV, Austin, Texas. "It's going to drive the animals to water sources, so squirrels in your backyard, dogs in your backyard, they're going to be looking at those fellas to feed off of."

In other news:

-- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends taking a pet to the vet for a regular spring or summer checkup, making sure they are safe near windows or open water, avoiding use of chemicals and fertilizers in warm weather, going easy on table scraps and finally keeping pets away from fireworks.

Those Fourth of July celebrations are more than noisy. Fireworks contain toxic substances like copper, arsenic, heavy metals and potassium nitrate. Scientists at Indiana University found toxic flame retardant chemicals in the blood of pet dogs at five to 10 times the level in humans.

The flame retardants are widely used in household furniture and home electronics, researchers wrote in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"Even though they've been around for quite awhile, we don't know much about these compounds' toxicological effects on humans or animals," said Marta Venier, a researcher at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

-- The ASPCA recently awarded a $100,000 grant to the Joplin Humane Society in Missouri, where at least 600 displaced pets needed care after the May 22 EF-5 tornado.

About 100 dogs have been identified and are waiting for their owners to reclaim them when they are able, the Daily Riverfront Times said. About 500 other Joplin-area pets whose owners cannot be found will eventually be put up for adoption.

The ASPCA has helped more than 6,600 animals affected by the tornadoes and flooding in the Mississippi Valley.

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