Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's HOT!

How hot?

Dam' Hot!!

95 degrees in the shade at 7:30pm is entirely too hot for me, especially since we have been in the 90's all this week, with no end in sight. We officially hit 100 degrees today, the first time in 8 years, and are expected to reach the century mark again tomorrow. Tonight's "low" is predicted to be 78. You MUST be joking, Mr. Weatherman.

These are the days that I dread the phone calls
at 5:45pm. Owners are just coming home from work to find Fluffy or Muffy or Rex flat out on his or her side, panting and foaming and looking ... not so good. These are the dog days of summer, which to you might just mean feeling a bit uncomfortable, but to a dog can mean death.

Dogs don't cool themselves by evaporation of sweat, like people or horses. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and in weather like this, it is hard to keep your cool.
Brachiocephalic (smooshy-faced) dog breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, old dogs, dogs with heart disease, and dogs on diuretics (water pills, like Lasix or Salix, = furosemide) are at especial risk. And no, shaving your dog won't help keep him cool (dogs don't cool themselves via sweat from their bodies, remember?) and may actually increase his risk of sunburn.

Shade and plenty of fresh water are essential for outdoor dogs, but if it is at all possible, please bring them indoors to air conditioning, or at least a cool basement. (NOT indoors into a garage or other enclosed space without A/C.) Or, take a tip from the horse world - set up a misting area, with a hose set on a very fine spray and a barn fan blowing the moist air around. In a pinch, try freezing water in plastic gallon jugs (larger, if you can manage it) and place the frozen jugs in front of a fan, so that the fan blows cooler air toward your dogs.

Needless to say, this is NOT the weather to take your dog along on your morning or evening run. I see plenty of "crazy" joggers out there, even on days like today. If you want to risk heat stroke, that is your business, but please don't force Casey to go with you. And, of course, DON'T leave any animal (or child) in an enclosed car, not even with the windows rolled down,
not even for a minute.

Rabbit owners, beware. Rabbits are exquisitely sensitive to heat stroke. I have seen them die from being left outdoors on the first warm spring day, when the shade that used to surround their cage moved, and the trapped bunny sat in direct sun too long.

The best way I can explain what happens in heat stroke is to remind you of the "This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs" PSA. The heat in the skillet cooked the eggs, and the build-up of heat in your dog's body "cooks" his proteins - in his gut (vomiting, bloody diarrhea, sloughing of the mucosal lining of the bowel), in his blood stream (the loss of clotting factors leads to excessive bleeding), and in his brain (seizures, death.) It ain't pretty.

Of course, Joey would pick this morning to sneak outside as I was leaving for work, and to defy my attempts to bring him back indoors. Luckily, I have never seen a case of heat stroke in a cat. I don't know why. There are plenty of shady places for him to hang out and I left him water, but I still worried about him during the day. I was a bit more worried when he didn't come to my initial calls, but he popped back up and rushed into the house, complaining.

"Geez, mom , it's really HOT out here! Whatever were you thinking, leaving me outside all day? It's about time you got home to let me back in." (With cats, it is never their fault, it is always yours, if they are left outside during inclement weather, even if you have told them and told them that it is hot or cold or raining or snowing.)

So, be kind to your four-legged friends. Keep 'em cool during the Dog Days. And, while you're at it, get yourself a popsicle, too!


nina said...

Our dog has "rituals" that, in this hot weather, concern me.
He always has clean water in his run outside, but seldom goes to it on his own for a drink. As soon as we get home, we get him out, refresh the water, and he drinks it, as if its the first time he's seen it all day!
Today's forecast of 100+ has me thinking it might makes sense to come home at lunch and water him. You'd think he'd get thirsty enough to break this behavior and drink--but he likes the routine of fresh water running in his bowl.
Better yet, I'll leave him in the kitchen, stretched out on the cool floor.

Anonymous said...

My husband was complaining about our Golden Retrievers being such lazy girls in this heat. They are not much interested in leaving the air conditioning until absolutely necessary.

I told him to put on two heavy coats and then go out for 5 minutes. Then he could tell me if it's too hot for the girls.

Mary said...

My Bostons are only allowed outdoors to go on their business trip, then back inside.

I got you beat. We hit 104 plus heat index last week. A record. We are still baking.