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Deadly Dog Days of Summer

Posted by at 5:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


Deadly Dog Days of Summer by Lisa TowellThis post has been previously published on PETA’s Dog Blog.

A few years ago, we took our dog Sydney out for a hike with some friends on a gorgeous hot summer day. The first part of the trail was up a steep, treeless hillside — Sydney made us feel out of shape as she trotted easily up in front of us. Halfway up the hill, we met a man sitting with his Rottweiler dog. The dog was a big friendly fellow, well over 100 pounds, and was panting heavily in the shadeless heat. We asked if the dog needed some water, but the man assured us that he was fine. “King just needs a rest before we finish going up the hill.” So we walked on.

Dogs are prone to heatstroke, much more so than their human companions — they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads. Most people know about the risks of leaving a dog in a hot car, but dogs can easily overheat while exercising on a summer day. Heatstroke is most common in large breeds and in short-nosed dogs like boxers and bulldogs. But other factors can also contribute, like obesity, heavy fur, lack of acclimation to the heat, and even excitement. Dogs just adore running around to explore new sights and smells and don’t always show good sense about how hot the weather is.

We had a nice picnic at the top of the hill and made sure that Sydney had lots of water. We started back down toward the car, sweaty and happy, about an hour later. When we got back to where we had left King, we were dismayed to find him stretched out flat on his side, breathing rapidly with foam on his lips. The man waved away our offers of help. “He’ll be OK in a few minutes.” But we knew this dog was in trouble. We poured our water over his black fur and tried to get him to drink, but he fell unconscious as we tried to help him. We told the man that his dog needed a vet immediately and offered to help transport him down the hill. The man didn’t quite seem convinced, but our two biggest guys hoisted King up and we got moving.

King died before we made it back to the parking lot.

I felt just sick at seeing such an unnecessary tragedy. Could we have saved him if we’d had some medical training? What if we had intervened when we first met the dog, while he was still conscious?

The best treatment for heatstroke is prevention.Try to avoid exercising your dog on a hot day (except for very early in the morning or late at night), and consider whether it’s really in your dog’s best interests to go with you to the Art & Wine Fair or the flea market when the sun is beating down. If you must take a dog out in the heat of the day, take frequent shady rest breaks, and offer lots of water.

Heatstroke can strike surprisingly quickly. Know the symptoms, so you can recognize it in your own dogs and in other dogs whose caregivers aren’t as well informed. Early signs include heavy panting, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, and lethargy. These are followed by confusion or lack of coordination, dry gums, and possible vomiting or diarrhea. Collapse and coma come next and can quickly lead to brain damage and death. If you see these signs, quick action is needed to save Ginger’s life. First, get her out of the direct sun and offer her water if she’s able to drink it. Second, get her temperature down by wetting her thoroughly with cool (not cold) water. It can also help to place cool water-soaked towels on her head, neck, armpits, and groin. Third, get her to a vet as quickly as possible. Some delayed complications from heatstroke are very serious, so it’s best to see the vet even if she seems to be recovering.

Every hot day when I see a dog panting in the sun, I remember King. After that heart-wrenching experience, I got some pet first-aid training, and I promised myself that I will fearlessly butt into other people’s business if an animal’s safety is at stake. But I ache every time I think of King, because what we did that day wasn’t enough.

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3 Comments

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    Kimiyo Nakamura Garey says...

    July 12th, 2009, 9:03 pm

    People are careLESS about basic things which should be known.
    Like some pet shop (actually it is PetSmart which has been very controversial about how to treat animals. They abuse animals and kill animals, a lot, etc.) piles up containers of beta fish so fish can”NOT” breathe and sometimes it is very obvious that they do “NOT” change water for beta fish for a quite long time and so on. I am also doubt that they feed fish appropriately.
    We have talked with shop clerks and they say, “that’s fine.” Oh, no, it is “NOT” fine! How could fish be okay with”OUT” breathing in “dirty” water?! So we have talked with a store manager more than a few times. We have observed the pet shop.
    Even it is a fish, a dog, or a cat, or any animals, people should know how to treat animals by reading books or instructions very carefully, and sometimes people NEED to be trained. They are animals, they live, “NOT” a thing, which people should know first.
    I just want to tell people that as well as I am telling myself everyday for my pets.
    If something bad happens, it is “too” late sometimes.
    Thank you very much.

    Erin says...

    July 26th, 2010, 10:06 pm

    I agree with you Kimiyo. I once bought a baby corn snake from PetSmart and the girl who was handing him to me was afraid of him! She didn’t know anything about snakes, and she almost dropped him in fright. The store also didn’t have the right type of food, since their mice were way too big for the little guy to eat. The vet at the store didn’t know much either, and my snake ended up dying. Later, and at a different place, I got two corn snakes from a man who actually owned snakes himself. He knew all about the baby corns and actually gave us the RIGHT food for them. PetSmart only employs inexperianced people who just want an ‘easy’ job.

    Jennifer says...

    August 10th, 2010, 10:04 pm

    Thanx, I had no idea. My dog has been lagging behind recently when I take her for long runs, but I haven’t been sympathizing much. I always thought I didn’t have to worry about my dog, because they are so physically superior to us. I have been placing the benefits of exercise possibly too far above the dangers of heat.

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