It’s pushing 90° F today in Chicago. I have gone through too many rainy sixtysomething degree Memorial Day weekends to jump the gun on storing all of the heavier clothing, but I will let myself hope that summer may have actually arrived on schedule this year.
I have to admit that this year we were somewhat underprepared for yesterday, the first truly hot day of the summer. The outdoor condenser unit had been uncovered and cleaned, but for some reason we didn’t flip on the power switch the day following cleaning. We discovered this sad fact right around the time we were hot enough to want air conditioning. All is well now, but humans, canines, and felines alike wilted our way through a few uncomfortable hours (the parakeet did not seem to mind the heat). This was minor discomfort, though, and far from a dangerous situation. We were well-hydrated, with shade available outdoors, and ceiling fans and standalone fans going indoors.
But extreme heat can definitely be very dangerous, particularly to the very young, the elderly, and pets. I have not heard any local stories of heat-related deaths so far this year, but one that is still on my mind is one that I’ve talked about here before: the heat-related deaths of seven show dogs left in an unventilated cargo van overnight by their handler, Mary Wild, last June. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but a pre-trial hearing was scheduled for today, May 24, and a jury trial for June 3. With summer weather upon us again, my hope would be that jury members experiencing the summer heat will be clearly able to imagine the agony these dogs went through in their final hours, something that may not have been so easy to relate to if the trial had indeed happened in the dead of winter.
I doubt anyone who visits me here on a regular basis would even think about leaving a dog, or any other living creature, in an unventilated vehicle overnight. But remember that when outdoor temperatures are high enough, it only takes a few minutes for the interior of a vehicle to reach dangerously high temperatures.
Here are the signs of canine heat stroke, from AKC’s Summer Safety Tips:
Early stages: Heavy panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, bright red gums and tongue, standing 4-square, posting or spreading out in an attempt to maintain balance.
Advanced stages: White or blue gums, lethargy, unwillingness to move, uncontrollable urination or defecation, labored, noisy breathing, shock.
Get the dog to a vet immediately, and in the meantime, cool it down:
– Apply rubbing alcohol to the dog’s paw pads.
– Apply ice packs to the groin area.
– Hose down with, or immerse his/her entire body in cool water
– Allow the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water.
– Offer Pedialyte to restore electrolytes.
Monitor rectal temperature; once temperature drops to 100-102° F, stop the cooling efforts.
Also see PetMD’s article about heat stroke in dogs for more information and emergency care advice.
Obviously the best strategy is prevention. Think twice about strenuous exercise in extreme weather. Think about leaving your dog at home if he would have to remain in the car for any length of time on a hot and humid day.