The Star-Herald

Just six minutes

Pet owners must be aware of the dangers of leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle.  Even though our “summer” has barely seen a few days in the 70s, this is such important information.  It takes just six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car.

The following information was provided by Jan Hoole

Despite all the warnings, people continue to leave their dogs in cars. Perhaps this happens because many owners don’t really understand what happens to a dog’s body in overheating and heatstroke. If a dog’s internal temperature goes above 105.8 degrees F, it is at risk of heatstroke, which only 50 percent  of dogs survive. Some breeds are more susceptible than others — large dogs, dogs with short faces such as bulldogs and boxers, and overweight or long-coated dogs are most at risk — but every dog has the potential to suffer from heatstroke. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot for this to happen, either. When it’s 71.6 degrees outside, the inside of a car can easily reach 116.6 degrees.

The science behind heatstroke is this: When a dog starts to overheat, it will lose heat by increasing its heart rate and opening up the capillaries in the skin. It will also pant to lose heat through the mucus membranes in its mouth and nose, and may lick its body to cool it by evaporation.

Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat. And as the heat increases, bodily functions start to break down. The dog enters a vicious spiral where the heart starts to fail and pushes out less blood, which means the heat cannot be carried away. Its blood pressure drops, blood pools in the organs and the body goes into shock.

When a dog’s internal temperature reaches 111.2 degrees F its circulation will fail, which causes kidney failure, lack of oxygen in the brain and internal bleeding. At this point, even if you can reverse the physical damage and save the dog’s life, it’s likely to have suffered brain damage, which can result in personality changes, loss of sensory perception and cognitive problems. So it’s not just a case of getting a bit too hot and not being able to cope. It’s total body breakdown.

On hot days, keep your dog cool by making sure they have a shady, well ventilated, secure place with access to water. Walk your dog early in the morning and later at night, avoiding the hottest parts of the day. This will also protect your dog’s paws from getting burnt on hot pavements. Remember, if it’s uncomfortable to touch with your hand, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.

If you see signs of overheating, such as panting or breathing loudly, licking the flanks, walking unsteadily or collapsing, wet a towel and drape it over the dog’s back, or directly wet their back and sides to cool by evaporation.

If your dog has suffered from heatstroke, immediately seek the help of a vet. It is a veterinary emergency. If you see a dog in distress in a car on a hot day, phone the police, who will advise you what to do. And please never, ever leave your dog in a car on a hot day. 

Stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We close for lunch from 12 to 12:30.  Also check us out on Facebook.  

Be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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