NEWPORT — From plastic pools to air conditioning and fans, the county’s animal shelter is preparing to keep dogs cool as summer heat begins.
However, some county pets aren’t as fortunate because owners are exposing them to dangerous heat conditions that can lead to death.
Carteret County Animal Control Supervisor Lauren Anderson said it’s important to make sure pets have adequate shelter and water if left outdoors in heat and pets should not be left in parked vehicles.
“Never leave your pet unattended in a parked car,” Ms. Anderson said in an email to the News-Times. “Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise above 100 degrees within a matter of minutes, which could result in irreversible damage and even death.”
Mitchell Village Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Joan Paschall agreed.
“Never leave your pet in a car, even for a millisecond,” she said in a telephone interview Friday. “It takes only a few minutes for the temperature to rise in a vehicle. In the summertime, even with the windows cracked, it is too hot.”
Dr. Paschall said each year she treats several dogs for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially breeds with short noses, like boxers and bull dogs.
“It can be dogs left in vehicles, or we’ve seen boaters who took their dogs out with them but they didn’t have fresh water for their pets. It’s also important to exercise with your pet early morning or late in the evening, never midday. Dogs can burn their pads on concrete.”
As for leaving dogs outside in the heat, Ms. Anderson had several tips.
“Always make sure your pet has access to clean fresh water,” Ms. Anderson said. “Make sure your pet has access to a shady spot or a place to escape the heat.”
She further pointed out senior dogs, puppies and dogs with short noses are less tolerant of the heat and need closer supervision.
She said while it’s safe to trim a dog’s fur during the summer, “Don’t shave down your dog. A dog’s fur coat acts as insulation, keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Their coat also protects their skin from direct sunlight, which could cause sunburn.”
Animal Shelter Assistant Manager Casandra Tupaj, too, encouraged pet owners to use caution during hot months.
“Leave pets at home and inside if possible,” Ms. Tupaj said.
Because of the seriousness of leaving dogs in vehicles in extreme temperatures, the General Assembly approved N.C. House Bill 612 in October 2013 that makes it unlawful to confine animals in motor vehicles under circumstances that threaten the animals’ health. Pet owners face a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor should their animal suffer serious injury or die as a result of confinement in a vehicle.
Further, the legislation allows animal control officers, police officers, firefighters and rescue squad workers who believe an animal is in danger to enter a motor vehicle by reasonable means after making an effort to locate the vehicle owner or other person responsible for the animal.
That means if a member of the public sees a dog confined to a car and in obvious distress, they should call 911 immediately to get assistance. Those calling should provide a description of the vehicle, the license plate number and where the vehicle is located.
According to the American Humane Society of the United States, pets cool themselves by panting, but this works only for a short time, especially when high humidity combines with high temperatures.
If mild heatstroke is suspected, an owner can help cool a dog by placing it in a cool water bath or spraying cool water on the dog with a hose. Cold towels can also be placed on them. However, it’s important to not drop the dog’s temperature too rapidly, as it can cause another set of problems.
If left unchecked, a dog can suffer heatstroke. Dr. Paschall said the first signs of heatstroke in a pet are excessive panting and drooling, and sometimes vomiting.
If heatstroke is suspected, Dr. Paschall recommended immediately getting the pet to a cool area and taking steps like using a water hose or ice packs to cool them down. Owners should also contact their veterinarian.
For more information, contact the animal control division of the Carteret County Health Department at 252-728-8585.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.