By Janet McAfee

Last week’s column warned pet owners about the dangers to our dogs from extreme hot weather.  It illustrated the dangers with the tragic story of a Desert Hot Springs Terrier posthumously named “Summer” whose sad ending went viral in social media and on the local news.

Last week’s temperatures reached an all-time record high of a scorching 123 degrees in Palm Springs.  Our soaring summer weather can bring distress and even death from heat stroke to our beloved dogs. This week the blistering heat continues.  The danger is horrific for dogs who escape from homes or who are abandoned by callous humans.

I felt it was important to repeat this topic after receiving a press release from John Welsh, public information officer for Riverside County Department of Animal Services. His report was titled, “Pug’s Death Illustrates Heat Wave Danger; Female Dog Found Thrashing in Coachella Valley.”

On June 16, county animal control officers Jose Fernandez and Noah Marquez discovered a small black dog thrashing about on the side of the road in Mecca.  The temperature at that time was 116 degrees. The new officer in training initially thought the pup was struck by a car.  They rushed the pup to the county’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus shelter where their veterinary colleagues quickly went to work to save the dog’s life.

County registered veterinary technicians Ivan Herrera and Carla Hernandez administered IV fluids and placed the pup on ice packs to stabilize her.  Sadly, her condition failed to improve and she was humanely euthanized.  The dog, estimated to be 3 years old, suffered a horrible death despite the efforts of these valiant public servants.

County Animal Services Director Julie Bank stated, “This is a tragic but avoidable outcome.  It is a grave reminder to be extra cautious with our pets when weather conditions become extreme.  I commend my team for doing all they could to save this poor little dog.”

Even if it does not cause death, overheating can result in irreversible kidney, heart, liver and brain damage. Dogs cannot sweat the way we humans do, as their only sweat glands are in their nose and on the pads of their feet. Imagine being thirsty and drinking out of a bowl scalding hot water bowl outside. This extreme summer hot weather only adds to the distress experienced by lonely “backyard only” dogs.

Dr. Andrea Walters, a veterinarian specializing in emergency and critical care, helps us understand from a medical perspective why heat stroke can be so deadly for dogs.  “Heat stroke occurs when an animal’s body temperature increases so much that it cannot be regulated property and brought down.  Dogs don’t sweat like people do.  Instead, they pant to cool themselves down.  Heat stroke causes damage to proteins and cells, which can lead to severe shock and cellular dysfunction when blood vessels near the skin dilate dangerously.”  Dr. Walters explains dogs’ need to cool through panting is why extreme heat is more dangerous to flat nosed breeds.

Brachycephalic breeds, flat faced breeds with short noses, are the most vulnerable to high temperatures according to our county Chief Veterinarian Dr. Sara Strongin.  She tells us: “These include pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Boston terriers, and owners of these breeds should practice caution when we’re faced with heat warnings.”  However, heat stroke can kill dogs of any breed with seniors and young puppies most at risk.

More precious dogs will die from heat stroke during summer 2021, some left in cars, others left on hot patios, some kept as “outdoor only” dogs in yards.  This cannot be said enough – – – BRING YOUR DOG INDOORS DURING THIS HOT WEATHER!  NEVER LEAVE A DOG UNATTENDED IN A CAR!

Your dog needs potty breaks and walks outdoors.  What should you do to protect him?  What are the signs of heat stroke in a dog, and what life saving remedies can you take?

Take your dog on long walks in the mornings and evenings, avoiding outings when the sun is at its highest.  Avoid asphalt and concrete when you walk, and stick to shaded areas whenever possible.  This is not the time to have him run alongside while you bicycle ride, or allow him to engage in strenuous play at the dog park.  Bring a bottle of water to sprinkle on him.

The symptoms of heat stroke can include glazed eyes, heavy panting, and pulling back on the leash.  Other symptoms include excessive thirst, hyperventilation, dry gums that are pale or grayish, or bright red tongue or gums.  Your dog may quickly suffer weakness, staggering, confusion, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and ultimately collapse.  Finally, if the overheating isn’t stopped, his breathing will slow, and he may have a seizure or fall into a coma.

Dr. Walters advises, “If you suspect heat stroke, it is important to begin lowering the animal’s temperature as soon as possible, even before transporting them to a veterinarian. A hose can be used to cool the animal, focusing on the belly and paw pads.  Be sure the water is cool, neither hot nor cold.  If the garden hose has been sitting in the sun, the water will be very hot.  It’s very important to not cool the animal too fast.”  Lay the animal on a cool towel, but don’t wrap them in one as this could trap the heat. Get vet care immediately.

What can you do to continue Summer’s legacy? Talk to friends and neighbors who keep their dog outdoors 24 hours a day. Calmly ask them why their dog is always outside, and try not to put them on the defense. Provide them with information on heat stroke. Suggest they get a baby gate and keep their dog in a kitchen or laundry room during the hot days.  Give them a copy of this article.  Anyone needing additional suggestions to transition their dog from outside to inside can email me.  If they won’t budge on this issue, suggest they provide shade and lots of cool water perhaps with ice cubes added.

The little black pug did not have an ID tag or a microchip to identify her owner.  Share her story in the hopes of saving other animals.  Meanwhile, enjoy the companionship and unconditional love your best canine friend provides INSIDE YOUR HOME!