Wednesday, 1 August 2018

It only takes six minutes ...

It's been hard to escape the news of the heatwave in England over these past few weeks, and even though the majority of us have been enjoying the sunshine, there are many who are more susceptible to the heat, and that includes our four-legged friends.

Although it has been long established that leaving dogs in a car on even a warm day can have detrimental effects, the RSPCA officially launched its "Dogs Die in Hot Cars" campaign back in 2016. The main points that this campaign aims to remind us of are:
  • Never leave your dog alone in a car, even for a short while
  • Even with the windows down, or parked in the shade, dogs can still overheat as they cannot cool themselves by sweating
  • Heatstroke can be fatal to dogs, and requires immediate veterinary attention
Between 2009 and 2018, the RSPCA had 64,443 reported incidents of animal heat exposure in England and Wales. At the start of this summer's mega heatwave, its emergency hotline received 1123 reports of animals suffering heat exposure in just one week (25 June to 1 July).

Just six minutes is all it takes for a dog to die in a car. If it's 22ºC outside, the inside of a car can easily reach 47ºC within 60 minutes. If a dog's internal temperature goes above 41ºC, he is at risk of heatstroke, with a survival rate of just 50%. A few degrees higher in body temperature, and his circulation will fail, causing kidney failure, a lack of oxygen to the brain, and internal bleeding. Even if a dog survives he will more than likely have suffered irreversible brain damage, which could lead to changes in their personality, sensory perception, and cognitive functioning. 

Of course, it's not just when in cars that you need to keep an eye on your dog's temperature. Keeping him in a well ventilated indoor space during the hottest parts of the day, and walking him early in the morning or later in the evening when it's cooler will provide the exercise he needs, without him becoming overheated in the process. Remember: if the ground is too hot for you to keep your hand on for five seconds, then it's too hot for your dog to walk on. Hot tarmac especially could cause severe burns to your dog's paw pads. 

Some breeds are even more prone to suffering in the heat than others, such as large dogs, dogs with short faces, overweight pups, or long-haired pooches. As dogs are unable to sweat like us, help them cool down by draping a cool (not cold) wet towel over their back and sides to cool by evaporation. 

If you witness a dog in distress in a car, the RSPCA suggests you should call the police before you attempt to help the poor pup yourself. If you have done this, and the situation becomes critical for the dog in question, you MUST tell the police of your intentions if you wish to rescue the animal, and collect evidence to support your action – such as videos or photographs of the vehicle, a note of the vehicle's registration number, as well as the names and numbers of any witnesses. The law states that "you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstance" (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

We may have had a break in this record-breaking heatwave, but there is still plenty of the summer left to go. Be sure to keep cool, and here's hoping that we see a bit more rain before the autumn!

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