Summer heat, poisonous plants prove dangerous for dogs

It’s the first day of summer, temperatures are rising, and Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service wants to help you keep your pets safe.

Every summer, owners leave their dogs in the car to stop by the grocery store, laundromat or bank, and every summer dogs die of heat stroke because of owner ignorance.

“Inside a car, the temperature will rapidly increase and can overwhelm a pet in a very short time period – sometimes with fatal consequences,” said Nancy Hill, director of SCRAPS, in a press release.

In addition to the heat, dogs face other summer dangers, from people-food stolen during cookouts to poisonous plants such as lilies. Most dogs love the water, but not all dogs can swim so keep them away from your pool. Also, keep pets away from fireworks, leash your dog in public areas and be sure to check for ticks and fleas periodically.

Here are some frequently asked questions about summer safety and pets:

Q. How quickly does the temperature rise in the car?

A. Even if you open the windows, leaving your dog in the car even for “just a minute” can be fatal.

Dogs can only sweat through their feet and cool down by panting, but because they can’t sweat as much as humans, they are much more susceptible to danger in hot temperatures.

Dogs’ inability to sweat puts them at high risk of dehydration and heat stroke in hot weather.

“The temperature outside doesn’t have to be in the 90s or more for a problem to exist,” Hill said. “On a 78-degree day, temperatures in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees – and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.” 

Q. Do you still have to be worried about animals on cloudy days?

A. Yes. Even on cloudy days when it doesn’t feel that hot, leaving your dog in the car is still dangerous. Clouds don’t stop UV rays and just as you can get sunburned even when the sun isn’t out, your dog can overheat if left in the car.

Q. What should you do if you see an animal left in a car?

A. If you see an animal left unattended in a car, call SCRAPS at (509) 477-2533. SCRAPS responders are trained to assess the animal’s level of distress and respond appropriately including rescuing the animal if the owner is not reachable.

Q. What can you do to keep your pets safe?

A. Never leave your dog in a parked car, keep them extra hydrated on hot days and do not force them to exercise heavily on hot days. Recognizing dangerous symptoms and getting your dog help immediately can save its life.

All dogs can get heat stroke, but if your dog is older, overweight, taking medication, has an extra coat of fur, or has pre-existing medical problems they are at a higher risk of heat stroke.

Q. How do you know if they are in danger?

A. Look out for rapid heavy panting, drooling, hyperventilation, visible bright red on the gums, glassy eyes, rapid heartbeat, warm or dry skin, refusal to obey commands, vomiting and diarrhea, weakness or collapse, and seizures. If you believe your dog might have heat stroke cool him down immediately and call your vet.

Q. What can happen to you if you leave your pet in the car?

A. If you leave your pet in your car for any period of time, you could face criminal charges for confinement in an unsafe manner which is a misdemeanor or animal cruelty, a felony charge.

Q. What should you do if you need to go out?

A. Leave your pet at home. A cool, sheltered house with water is much safer than a hot car and if necessary, SCRAPS provides free dog houses to keep your dog sheltered from the heat while you are out.

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