Archive for June, 2012

It’s summer in Texas, and once again the temperature has been running well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That means our pets are facing some extra hazards right now.

Parked Cars

I shouldn’t need to say this, but NEVER leave your pet in the car. I don’t care if it’s for five minutes while you run into the drug store. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise as fast as 35 degrees in half an hour, and much of that rise happens in the first few minutes.

Imagine you run into the store to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy, thinking you’ll be in and out in five minutes. But there’s a line, and the pharmacist can’t find your insurance information…next thing you know, you’ve been in there for 30 minutes, and the temperature in your parked car rises from 75 degrees to 110. Maybe more.

Cracking the window does NOT make any appreciable difference. The problem is the sun hitting the metal exterior. It’s basically a big convection oven.

Then I see people try to solve the problem by leaving the car running. Do I really have to tell you this is a bad idea? I know of multiple cases in which vehicles have been stolen with pets inside. And there are even a few documented cases of excited pets knocking a parked, running vehicle into gear and wrecking the car.

Outdoor Hazards

Do you normally leave your dogs outside while you’re gone during the day? If so, you need to take extra precautions. Do they have adequate shade? Have you checked the temperature in that shady spot? I parked in a shady spot the other day; no joke, the temperature in the shade was 107 degrees. You wouldn’t want to spend all day in 107 degree heat. Neither does your pet.

Make sure that all pets, indoors and out, have plenty of water. Especially for outside pets or during outdoor activity time, consider adding chunks of ice to their water to keep it from heating up. Kiddie pools full of water are another good idea to help your pet cool off; just change the water regularly, and remember that your pet is likely to drink some of that water, so no chemicals.

Dog walkers! Remember how hot the pavement and sidewalks can get. If it would burn your feet to walk on it barefooted, it can hurt your pet too. Encourage pets to walk in the grass, or try to do most of your walking early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s not so hot. This is especially important for short-legged pets whose bellies are close to the ground; the heat radiating from the pavement is extra uncomfortable for them.

Remember that senior pets, pets with other health issues, and puppies are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Brachycephalic breeds – like my squish-faced Pekes – are also extra vulnerable to heat. Keep them well-hydrated and limit their exposure. If they get too hot, cool them down fast with tepid water – never cold – and offer water mixed with Pedialyte to help balance their electrolytes.

Heat stroke

As a dog goes into heat stroke, he will pant exhaustively. As he dehydrates, the saliva will become thick and ropy. His gums will go extremely bright or dark red, and then in the later stages of heat stroke can go a pale, shocky gray. Once the gray gums set in, expect bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and either seizures or collapse. At this point, RUN to the vet’s office, because time is critical.

If you catch it in the earlier stages – drooling, red gums, panting heavily – start cooling the dog with tepid water, fans, cold packs inside the back legs. Again, offer water and Pedialyte. Again, you should go to the vet to get the dog checked out, because extreme heat can cause damage that doesn’t show up right away. The vet may want to run fluids to combat the dehydration, or may want to give steroids to keep the lungs working properly.

Excessive heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be deadly. Please take it seriously.

I’m back!

I took a few weeks off to regroup following some major changes in my personal circumstances. And yesterday, I went back to my volunteer work at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.

Is it weird that I was really happy to be there?

It was hotter than hell’s hinges outside, not a cloud in the sky, no breeze to speak of.  But no matter the weather, the dogs still need to be walked and photographed. And there is nothing happier than a shelter dog escaping confinement, especially to the dog park with kiddie pools and toys.

I was glad to see half a dozen volunteers walking dogs and a few more working in the cat rooms. With frequent breaks, I managed to get in three hours. If you figure 15 minutes for each pair of dogs I took out, you can see the problem. There are over 400 dogs in MCAS at any given time. Today, right now, there are 454.

Most people think that the staff walk the dogs. They don’t. They can’t. It takes all their time to feed, medicate, clean kennels, help the public look for missing animals or pets to adopt, and do the mountains of associated paperwork. For those dogs to get outside, it takes volunteers.

Currently, we try to get every dog outside in the sunlight and open air for 15 minutes every week. That’s right. Out of a seven day week, it’s everything we can do to get each dog 15 minutes of freedom.

The more each dog gets outside, the healthier that dog will stay, both physically and psychologically. Imagine how hard it is on a dog – especially a housetrained dog – to spend 24 hours a day in a kennel, surrounded by dozens of other dogs. These dogs are under constant stress from the confinement, the noise, the exposure to other animals’ germs, and the lack of sunlight. They need exercise to release that stress. They need access to fresh air and grass to help them stay cleaner and healthier.

For that to happen, we need volunteers. We’ll take you any day we can get you, but we especially need more volunteers during the week. If you can give just two hours a week to walk dogs, you will be making a tremendous difference to those animals. The healthier and happier they are, the more readily adoptable they are.

What does it take to be a volunteer?

You need to be over 18. You need to sign a volunteer liability release. And you need to show up willing to work. That’s about it.

Practical recommendations: Wear close-toed shoes. Wear old clothes you don’t mind getting really dirty. I bring my own leashes; it saves time, they are easier on my hands. I also wear a pair of gardening gloves to protect my hands when I’m taking big dogs to and from the dog park. They are so excited to get out that they often pull surprisingly hard; I have actually had my hands rope burned a couple of times, which is why I started wearing gloves.

When you get home from the shelter, do not handle your own dogs or sit on your furniture until you have thrown your clothes in the washer and showered. It’s a basic safety protocol to keep from transmitting any germs or bacteria from the shelter animals to your own pets. I have followed this simple protocol for years and never had a problem.

Come volunteer. There are 454 dogs (and 352 cats) who will thank you.

The Montgomery County Animal Shelter is located on 242, just east of 45. Go over the bridge, and then u-turn back to the shelter, which is on the north side of 242. The shelter is open 7 days a week.