By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Some people attending the recent Wickford Art Festival found themselves responding to overheated dogs as much as the displays of paintings and other creative efforts lining village streets.
Animal control officer Holly Duffany says an officer at the police station told her that he and others working the event’s safety detail were approached by concerned people reporting dogs who were suffering in the intense heat.
“The police located the dogs and checked on their wellbeing,” Duffany notes.
In fact, among other e-mails to the Standard-Times on this hot-button topic, one festival-goer expressed outrage at seeing a puppy that was glassy-eyed, panting and disoriented. “He was clearly on the verge of a heatstroke and when I confronted his owners they said, ‘He’s just lazy.”
Dr. Annie Luong, a staff veterinarian at North Kingstown Animal Hospital on Quaker Lane, says a basset hound was being “dragged around the festival panting” while its owners repeatedly drank from water bottles. The rule of thumb, she says, is “every time you stop to drink water, your dog needs water, too.”
In particular, Luong cautions that old dogs, those with short, pushed-in noses (brachycephalic) such as pugs, Pekingese and bulldogs particularly should not be walking around in the heat because they already have breathing issues. Big woolly dogs such as Newfoundlands, old English sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees, among others, should be kept indoors in a cool space.
Last week, says the vet, a dog with a temperature of 108.2 – normal is 100-102.5 – was brought in by NK animal control for emergency care. “Basically, his blood was boiled,” says Luong. Despite its perilous condition, the dog pulled through after receiving treatment.
Duffany has been inundated by phone reports of dogs exposed to the 90-plus-degree heat in yards with no shade or cover. In addition, she notes, “A lot of our calls are about people leaving their dogs in cars,” she adds.
She and her deputy, Erin Noblet, investigate all calls. “When a call comes in, I get a bowl and water and head over,” Duffany explains.
If it’s a report of a dog in a car, she says, “I go out and try to locate the owner and check on the health of the dog. I advise them that it gets to be 120 degrees in their car and their dog is baking in there. A lot of people say ‘I was only in the store two minutes.’ Two minutes is all it takes” for a dog to die.
In general, she says, “People need to be educated. It’s an animal wearing a fur coat. They have to be hydrated and they can’t walk on the hot pavement because they have no protection. If you have to take a dog somewhere, bring water and get in the shade.
“People think ‘Oh, it’s a dog; he’ll be fine.”
Her own dog, which sometimes accompanies her to work, is at home in the air conditioning. “She’s not outside,” Duffany declares.
An employee of Wolf Rock Animal Health Center on South County Trail, in Exeter, says, “We had someone in as an emergency. The dog was a little on the chubby side and really suffering. It was a combination of the heat and terrible upper respiratory problems.”
Common sense is probably the basic requirement for pet owners who want to safeguard their dogs during the sweltering summer weather.
E. Stefan Coutoulakis, Exeter’s emergency management director, sends out daily e-mails containing weather advisories and tips for coping with various situations. This week he followed an earlier posting about protecting pets with another, more detailed, list of preventive measures.
Tips he shares for keeping dogs cool include filling kiddie pools for them to play in while absorbing water into their coats and making sure plenty of water and shade are easily available. He also warns against walking dogs and taking them to public events.
But what do you do if – despite all your best efforts – the pet has a heatstroke anyhow?
According to an online source, here are emergency steps to take:
n Lower the dog’s body temperature by submerging it in cool (not icy) water, or by running a hose over its body.
n Cool the head and neck areas first.
n Place the dog in an air-conditioned space.
n Do not attempt to force a dog in the throes of heatstroke to drink water.
n Seek immediate professional attention and evaluation.
n Keep the family veterinarian’s phone number handy at all times.
Just as they apply to children, local and state statutes also forbid leaving animals inside vehicles – even with windows partially open or during evening hours. Violators risk both civil and criminal penalties.
Citizens who witness animal cruelty or see a pet confined inside a vehicle should notify animal control or the police.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN.