Extreme heat brings extreme dangers for pets

With summer officially underway, high temperatures and uncomfortable humidity levels have already hit the area, prompting many to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

People sometimes forget they should also be looking for the same signs and symptoms in their four-legged friends.

Dr. Dennis Drager, owner and veterinarian at Animal Clinic – The Vet, said since dogs are mammals they respond to the heat the same way humans do.

“Dogs will experience panting, restlessness and, as symptoms get worse, we see the rapid panting and severe lethargy and look of anxiousness,” he said.

Drager said the normal body temperature for dogs is 101 to 102 degrees, but if left in extreme temperatures the core body temperature can rise quickly and lead to death.

“It goes up extremely fast,” he said.

If the animal is treated quickly, Drager said they can reverse the symptoms and try to lower the body temperature slowly with cold towels around the head and the body and give the animal water; however, if it is a severe case, IV fluids could be administered.

“We would do that especially to keep from damaging the kidneys,” he said.

Heidi Drager, executive director at the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown, said one of the biggest problems she sees during the summer with dogs is them being left in cars unattended.

“Just like with babies and children, they’re defenseless and can’t get the door open,” Heidi said. “Their temperature will rise rapidly and become deadly very quickly.”

Heidi said the ARL receives numerous calls about people leaving dogs in hot cars, and the protocol is to respond to the scene with a police officer.

If the dog is in imminent danger, that is reason enough for them to break into the car to retrieve the animal, but, she said, that should only be done with the proper authorities there, not by a civilian.

“Definitely if you see a situation where any animal is in a car, call the authorities,” she said. “If you don’t feel there is time, ask the police for assistance.”

Dennis said not only is a car a bad place for a dog in the summer, but they can also experience the same type of symptoms while chained up in a yard without the adequate shade or water.

He said his veterinary clinic has not seen any cases of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in dogs so far this summer.

If you see an animal that could be in imminent danger, call 911. If you see other cases of neglect or dangerous conditions, call the Animal Rescue League at 641-753-9046.