Jun 22 2012

Why do people continue to leave their pets in cars?

The weather has been unbelievable here in the Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Scarborough area. Now, I love the heat, but this is hot. Despite the heat and humidity I still went out for my training run last night. We were warned to keep properly hydrated and cut the run short if the heat was too much. We planned to run down by the Pickering Scarborough waterfront – it could be cooler there.

The beginning of the run was great – we were in the shade.  After being in our air conditioned veterinary clinic all day I was actually looking forward to being outdoors. Ten minutes into the run I could feel my heart pounding. Man it was hot. And to think we were running 10km at a tempo pace, which means as fast as you can. My water supply was diminishing and we were only at the 2k mark. It actually wasn’t that bad until we turned a corner by the wind turbine in Pickering and we hit dead air. There was no wind, just heat and humidity.

My heart was pounding, my head was hurting and all you could hear was the heavy breathing of us runners. I started to think we were nuts running in the hot weather and the looks we were getting from passersby was incredible.  By the time we got up to Bayly and Liverpool I thought I had hit the wall. My legs were cramping, my head was hurting, my heart was pounding, and my breathing was heavy. I thought of the recent incidences of dogs being left in the car. This is probably how they felt.  At least we can sweat.

Heat stroke is serious. Why do people continue to leave their pets in cars?  One incident is too many but to now hear of 3. Has anyone experienced heat exhaustion/stroke?  Let me tell you what happens with your pet.

The first sign your pet may show is panting. The heart muscles become damaged resulting in heart failure. Blood flow is compromised and it becomes more difficult to breathe. Breathing may initially be normal but as the lungs fill with fluid, breathing becomes laboured and will sound noisy or wheezy. As the brain swells from fluid, your pet will act “drunk” and stagger around and may even seizure. The colour of your pet’s gums should always be nice and pink, but with heat stroke they can look red before they become pale or even blue in colour. They can also turn yellow indicating destruction of red blood cells or from the liver failing. The intestinal tract and kidneys can also be affected.  You may notice red pin point marks on the skin or gums or what looks like larger bruises on the skin. The result of this multi organ failure is Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC) or in other words, Death Is Coming!

The goal of emergency treatment is to lower core body temperature as soon as heat stroke is suspected. This can be accomplished with tepid water baths, hosing down your pet and using fans to blow cool air onto them. Do not place your pet in an ice bath because this will impair heat dissipation. Even placing a cool towel on their body will impair their ability to cool.

Get your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible so further measures can be taken. This is not to be taken lightly. Your pet can die from heat stroke.

As we were coming to the end of our run the sprinkler systems were on by an apartment complex. We ran through them like 5yr olds through the sprinklers. What a relief.

Wishing you the best, Dr. Kathleen Fulop.

Veterinarian Blog 2012
Amberlea Animal Hospital serving Durham, Pickering, Ajax, and Whitby, Scarborough, and the GTA


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