Vets fight ignorance and summer sun to avoid heatstroke among pets

Veterinarians and pet owners are warning people with furry ones to protect them from the intense heat of the summer.

DUBAI // Veterinarians say they are concerned about the number of pets being treated for heatstroke.

The condition presents a risk all year, but can be exaggerated in the summer, doctors said

Rebecca Turner, a practice manager at the Modern Veterinary Clinic in Dubai, said that over the past three months, the facility had received on average one severe case of heatstroke per week.

Overall, residents are keeping their pets safe, she said. But she recalled a recent incident in which a French Bulldog was brought to the clinic after it had died.

The owners were at work, and while the housekeeper was cleaning the flat, she opened the balcony door. The dog followed the maid outside, but when she walked back in, she closed the door and left the dog behind, Ms Turner said. The owners arrived two hours later and found the dog dead.

"When the owners brought in the dog, his two front paws had blood on them because the dog was frantically trying to come inside. This is an extreme case, but the dog had been on the balcony for two hours," Ms Turner said.

Although dogs of all breeds are affected by the heat, bulldogs, pugs and Pekinese are among the short-nosed breeds that are most vulnerable, because they have trouble regulating their core temperature through breathing.

"We get dogs of different types of breeds ... sometimes they pull through and other times we can't help them if it is an extreme case," said Ms Turner.

Dogs bred for cold climates, such as huskies and chow chows, and overweight or obese dogs face an increased risk of heatstroke.

Vets stressed the importance of pet owners walking their dogs during the cooler early morning or evening hours.

Dr Matt Pietrak, a veterinarian at the Desert Veterinary Clinic, highlighted the crucial role of education in protecting pets from the heat.

"Usually people don't know. The reason for all these unnecessary deaths ... is plain old ignorance and a lack of knowledge about animals," said Dr Pietrak, who has worked in Dubai for 23 years.

He added that people should not be fooled by the sunset, as the high humidity could also represent a danger.

He advised owners to carry "doggy bottles" filled with water to keep their pets hydrated during walks.

"Two weeks ago, we saw a two-year-old male Labrador whose owner had taken him for a half-hour walk at 3pm.

Within 15 minutes of coming back home, the dog started to show signs of illness," Ms Turner said.

Despite the clinic doing its best to rehydrate the dog with an intravenous drip and fluids, the dog, which had been perfectly healthy, passed away.

Some pets may pull through heatstroke with the aid of fluids and cold towels to cool them down. Many, however, are not so lucky, and suffer irreversible damage to their kidneys or brains.

"Heatstroke involves a state of shock that leads quickly to death ... pets would be panting a lot and show signs of dizziness," said Dr Walter Tarello, of Pet Connection Vet Clinic. "Sometimes, they stand on their feet again, but can die three days later due to renal failure."

Gail Gordon, from England, said her husband walked their three dogs - a golden retriever called Rusty, a Labrador called Lucky, and a shih tzu called Snoopy - at 6am and 8.30pm. The couple has netting over part of their garden for shade. They also keep fresh water inside and outside their home.

"Most of the time, I rarely see dog owners walking their pets - it is the house staff," Mrs Gordon said.

"If I ask why they are walking the dogs during the hot hours of the day, they say their madam told them to do so. They don't have a clue that the red bricks on the pavements hold even more heat."

Mrs Gordon cautioned owners not to leave their dogs or cats in hot cars, not even with the windows open.

Maya Derbas, from Lebanon, said she had built a small outdoor home for her dog, Rozy, and her eight puppies.

"Rozy and her kids have a small house that I built, so in the summer they can stay in, but the door of the house stays open for them," she said.

Ms Derbas added that the harsh climate in Dubai dictates that owners should take extra care, and if they had no choice but to take their dogs out for walks, to make sure they have a cool floor and water at their disposal when they returned.

"I'm against taking dogs for long walks under the heat," Ms Derbas said.

"I once saw a man walking his husky in Dubai in June - that was not smart at all."

Published: August 26, 2011 04:00 AM


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