By Steve Dale
So, you figure you’re only running into the store for 15 minutes. You leave Fido in the car, and after all, you’ve cracked open all four windows, and it’s only 80 degrees outside. It doesn’t sound so bad, until you use a thermometer. In 15 minutes, that car heats up to over 115 degrees (according to a Stanford University study).
“”Because dogs don’t sweat, except for some from their paw pads, they aren’t as efficient at cooling off as people and are more susceptible to heat stroke,”” says Dr. Gene Mueller, president of the Anti Cruelty Society in Chicago. There’s no one agency that keeps track of how often dogs die in hot cars. “”But clearly it happens too often, according to Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), NY. “”I mean, normal, adult humans wouldn’t just sit and boil in a car; they’d get out. But dogs don’t have a choice if the doors are closed. Sadly, these cases of fatal heat stroke are preventable " it shouldn’t happen.””
If you see a dog closed up in a hot car, take action. In many places, the law is on your side. No matter, Mueller says, “”If you can’t quickly locate the driver " perhaps by poking into a store a car is parked in front of " call the police. Yes, I’d make a big deal about it; you might save a life.””
Leaving windows open “”just a crack,”” does little to minimize the temperature level inside a hot car, according to the Canadian Safety Council. Even though the windows may be slightly open, on a sunny day, even when the starting point is as low as 72 degrees, within an hour the thermometer hits 117. And these temperatures are averages, take a very large dog (who because of mere size keeping cool becomes more of a challenge) or a dark interior car, and the problems can be even worse.
Some pet owners roll the windows all the way down when there’s a dog inside the car. Murray says the good news is that this does help for a short while to keep the temperature more tolerable, although it will still quickly become mighty hot. The bad news is that in an effort to cool off, or just because it’s fun " some dogs jump through open windows. “”It happens,”” she says. “”Instead of dying of heat stroke, they get hit by a car, or they get lost.””
“”Sometimes we mean well, but truly by bringing the dog with us we’re meeting our needs, instead of the dog’s needs,”” says Mueller. “”There are times when the right thing to do is just leave your dog home in the air conditioning.””
While these words of wisdom are true from Bangor, Maine to Detroit, Mich., you’d figure in Arizona, at least folks would know better. But there have been a number of deaths this year, because people have gone hiking with their best friends when it’s just too darn hot. Recently, near Cave Creek, Ariz., a man took his nine-year-old Rottweiler for a walk. They began their excursion in the relative cool of the morning. But, they continued as the air temperature reached the mid-90’s, and the ground temperature was 144 degrees. The hiker returned without his dog. A helicopter tried to dump water for the exhausted canine, but it was too late.
“”People need to also consider ground temperature,”” says Su Ewing, a pet book author who lives in Mesa, Ariz. To prove her point, at about noon " with an air temperature exceeding 100 degrees " she walked barefoot on the driveway in front of her home. She lasted five seconds. “”If I continued, I would be blistered,”” she says.
So no wonder veterinarians treat blistered paw pads. Hot pavement, particularly asphalt, can burn paws. “”Each year, I treat blistered paws,”” St. Louis, Mo veterinarian Dr. Stephen Brammeier says.
Stop and talk for a while on hot pavement, and Ewing says her dogs begin to do a little dance, expressing their discomfort. She says, toward the end of the day, you can actually see the heat rise from the asphalt.
Brammeier says on hot days, it’s best to take dogs out for long walks very early in the morning or well after sundown. He says it’s a good idea to take along a plant mister to spray the dog, as well as drinking water for you and the dog. If you’re just outside in your yard, a kiddie pool is great for dogs to wade in. Each year, swimming dogs, like Newfoundland’s, Portuguese water dogs and retrievers die because they can’t exit a real pool. Make sure the dog has a way out, and understands how to do it.
Brammeier says he feels badly for outdoor dogs. While they can acclimate some to the heat " if it’s 90 degrees " that’s just plain, too hot for a dog, period. They require shade, and water (which won’t be tipped over). “”I sometimes see the conditions these dogs are in, and I know it’s just on the right side of legal, but it’s not right. Not by my definition.””
Cats are prone to summertime hazards as well. Where’s Sheriff Andy Taylor when you need him? In most places, if you phone the local sheriff or fire department to fetch a cat up a tree, you’ll only hear a bemused operator ask, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding?’ If you manage to convince emergency personnel to respond, you’ll likely be charged a fee.
Be patient. Veterinary clinics rarely report treating cats who have fallen from trees. Emergency rooms, however, do treat people who have fallen trying to rescue feline friends. Entice kitty with a can of tuna left at lower branches or at the base of the tree. Walk away and wait for hunger to overcome fear.
Being indoors is absolutely preferred. For most cats watching the butterflies and birds go by is better than turning on a ball game on T.V. Unfortunately, they may get too “”involved”” and jump toward the passing insect or bird while looking though a window with an insecure screen or open window. “”Jumping at moving objects is what cats are programmed to do,”” says Gail Buchwald, vice president of shelter adoptions at the ASPCA. “”They don’t think, ‘Oh I’m up very high I better not.’ In fact, because they’ve gone (upstairs or in an elevator) in a carrier, they may have no idea how high they are.””
This event is called high rise syndrome. Sometimes cats are able to right themselves and land on all fours. When that happens, gravity causes their heads to keep going, and they typically break their jaws and might also suffer broken legs. While many cats may tolerate the fall from one flight up without an injury, to believe they’d walk away from falling even two or three floors, let alone, 20 floors up is just a fallacy. And many cats pay an ultimate price as a result of high rise syndrome.