Heat can hurt pets

HENDERSON, KY -- There are hot dogs all over Henderson County and these aren't the kind with mustard and relish.

They're outside canines who are having to cope with sweltering conditions, and their owners may not realize that the animals are prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke just as humans are.

Charlotte Guarneros of the Henderson County Humane Society Animal Shelter said that agency gets calls throughout summer about dogs in distress because they don't have sufficient water or shade.

The reports are investigated, she said, and the vast majority turn out to be valid complaints. The pet owners are given a short time to correct the problem, she said, to prevent ''something tragic'' from occurring. She added that ''We do go back to check and make sure it's corrected.''

If it's not righted, she said, the pet owner can be cited on charges of cruelty to animals.

Local veterinarian Tim Cottingham of the Animal Hospital notes that clinic sees ''quite a few'' dogs in acute heat distress every summer, ''and usually people wait until it's a little late to bring them in ... Sometimes it's hard to bring the animals back. The heat can shut down their kidneys and other organs and (after emergency treatment) they may look OK but still not make it.''

Heat problems, he said, ''are pretty serious, and people often don't think about them. Even if the dog is getting water, it can still suffer heat stress.''

Dr. Mary Ives with the Veterinary Medical Clinic here said that some people take their dogs to run with them in summer heat, and she's seen breeds that ''are made for running'' succumb to heat stroke. ''They can pass out after 30 minutes on hot concrete,'' she said. ''We've seen our share.''

She said that animals merely walking can also become over-heated. ''If you're taking them on a walk, take water along for them,'' she said.

The veterinarians and the Henderson County Humane Society urge pet owners to make sure their outside pets, including cats, have plenty of fresh water. Owners should check at least twice a day, and be certain the animal can't overturn the container.

Guarneros recommends a heavy water bowl that can't be tipped, or even digging a hole in which to place the water container.

The animals should also have a shady place, and if they are in pens there should be a covering to provide shade. ''The covering needs to be high enough for the heat to escape,'' Guarneros said.

Owners are reminded that pets left alone in a parked vehicle can be in as much jeopardy as children in that same situation. The national Humane Society has warned that, ''There is a risk of brain damage and heatstroke to animals -- as well as children -- left in parked cars for only a few minutes. On a warm day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 160 degrees very quickly.''

The Humane Society says symptoms of heat stress include: Heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, dizziness, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue. Local vets add that the animal is apt to be extremely lethargic, and may lose consciousness.

Ives said first aid for an overly-heated dog includes placing it in a bathtub with cool water. Cottingham said showering the animal with the garden hose can help too, and he cautions owners ''not to cool the dog down too fast. Don't throw them in an ice bath.'' They also need prompt medical attention, he said.

Another first aid measure, he said, is applying rubbing alcohol to the pads of the animal's feet and to the inside flanks.