Give the pooch a break during dog days of summer

Washington Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement Officer Michael Triebwasser. D.C. law requires pet owners to provide adequate water and shelter to their pets. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON – A French bulldog lies sprawled on a steel table, his labored breathing monitored by veterinarians at Friendship Hospital for Animals.

Just a few feet away, a team of vets and techs who had been struggling to save another dog step away from the the big hound they’d been working on. The tears in some of their eyes tell the story: That dog didn’t make it.

Both animals had been brought in suffering from heat-related problems. Dr. Ashley Hughes explained just how dangerous this heat can be.

“Dogs can only lose heat two ways — through panting, and they can lose some heat through their paw pads,” Hughes says.

That’s why Hughes says owners have to be their dog’s best friend. Dogs should be walked in the early morning or evening. Walks should be kept short. Long runs should be skipped.

“Dogs aren’t very good at letting us know that they’re too hot until they actually collapse,” says Hughes.

That’s what happened to the little bulldog. Its labored breathing sounded like a snore. But Hughes explained the sound was actually tissue rattling in his airway.

“Brachycephalic dogs, those smushy-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs, because of their anatomy, they are even less efficient at cooling their body temperatures than other dogs.”

Two more dogs, a pair of pit bulls, were brought in by Washington Humane Society Humane Law Enforcement Officer Michael Triebwasser. They’d been left without shelter or water in a backyard. The female was tethered to the fence in the yard.

“As soon as I pulled up I was concerned. I saw her for just a moment — she stood and then collapsed,” says Triebwasser.

Triebwasser reminds dog owners that D.C. law requires pet owners to provide adequate water and shelter to animals. He and Hughes say another big problem in hot weather involves animals left in cars.

“Never, ever leave your dog in a car,” says Hughes.

Triebwasser nods when he hears what the vet said.

“We get so many calls for this, especially during the summer.”

Triebwasser says pet owners say they thought the dog would be fine, since they parked in the shade or they cracked the windows, but the interior of a car in shade with windows rolled down, can easily top 100 degrees, and given a dog’s inability to cool off efficiently, it’s never a good idea to leave any pet inside a car.

What do you do if you think your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke?

  • Stop all activity.
  • Cool your dog’s body temperature slowly. Wet a towel with tepid, not ice- cold water and drape over your dog.
  • Run a fan over your dog.
  • If you suspect the condition is serious, don’t wait, get medical attention immediately.

To prevent problems:

  • Exercise your dog in the coolest hours of the day, early morning, later in the evening.
  • Limit exercise and play. Your dog is eager to please you and join in, but understand his limits.
  • Keep water accessible at all times.
  • Cool water is fine, it doesn’t need to be ice-cold.
  • Leave your dog at home in a cool place.
  • If you do keep your dog outside, make sure there’s a cool shady spot where your dog can rest with water available at all times

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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