PICKENS COUNTY — If there was any doubt before, it’s obvious now: Summer is here. It’s hot, it’s muggy and at times it feels more like we are living in the Sahara Desert rather than in Upstate South Carolina.
But it could be worse — you could be walking around with a fur coat on.
With temperatures looking unlikely to drop out of the 90’s anytime soon, it’s important to take steps to keep everyone in the home protected from heat stroke — including the four-legged members of our families.
“The heat-related death of a beloved pet is a tragic, completely preventable situation,” said Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker. “There are no statistics on how many dogs die every year from heat exposure, because the majority of cases go unreported. But estimates are several hundred pets suffer this slow, agonizing and unnecessary fate every summer.”
According to Becker, animals can die or sustain brain damage from heatstroke in as little as just 15 minutes.
“Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads,” she said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) warns the public about the dangers pets can face during the summer months, especially concerning leaving pets in vehicles.
“Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs,” a PETA spokesperson said. “On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes.”
It has been shown that on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature of a vehicle can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
“You can’t just roll the windows down. It’s not enough,” said Dr. Jerry Gibbons, DVM. “If you’re not going to be in the car with your dog, AC on, just leave him at home. It’s too hot to be fooling with this.”
Gibbons also said that certain dog breeds are more at risk.
“Any of those short-muzzled breeds — your pugs, boxers, bulldogs — they’re just not as good at handling the heat. Your senior dogs and then young puppies are also probably going to have a harder time,” he said. “You a Georgia fan? You ever see that bulldog of theirs laying on a big bag of ice? That’s why.”
Besides keeping pets cool, Gibbons also warned about walking dogs during the hottest parts of the day.
“It’s not just the air temperatures you have to worry about,” he said. “People wear shoes. We don’t think about how hot the pavement gets. But I’ve had dogs come in here with blisters on their pads. Remember as a kid on the beach trying to make it to the water before the sand burned your feet? Same feeling.”
Gibbons said a good rule of thumb is that if the pavement is too hot to hold your hand against, it’s too hot for pets to walk on.
“Just watch them. Make sure they have fresh water, bring them inside and let them hang out in the AC, stuff like that. Set up a kiddie pool if you have a dog that likes the water. But most importantly, if you think your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, don’t wait,” he said. “These things can escalate very quickly.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.