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Hot Weather Tips for Pets; Owners Encouraged to Take Special Care During Extreme Heat and Humidity

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 22, 2016

The staff of the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center want to remind pet-owners that there are important practices to follow during periods of extreme heat to ensure the safety of dogs and cats. Owners are encouraged to bring their domestic pets inside during periods of extreme heat and humidity. Animals that have to remain outdoors must have access to shade and plenty of cool water.

Montgomery County’s Executive Regulation 10-10AM, Anti-Cruelty Conditions for Dogs, Section 1.0-II-D is enforced in the summer months whenever and for as long as the Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Warning. This regulation states that, “A person must not tether a dog under circumstances that endanger its health, safety, or well-being, including: unattended tethering of a dog during a weather emergency.” The penalty for this violation is a fine of $500.

Just as the public is advised not to leave young children or the elderly in a parked car, this guidance also applies to pets. The temperature inside a vehicle can drastically rise after just a few minutes.  That leaves vulnerable people and pets susceptible to heat stroke, brain damage, and even death.  Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does little to alleviate the heat inside a vehicle.

Dogs are frequently left unattended in a vehicle and because their bodies are designed to conserve heat, if they are left unattended in a vehicle they can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports that animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles—will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

Signs of heat stroke in dogs include:  a body temperature of 104 to 110 degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright-red tongue and gums, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, staggering, stupor, seizures, profuse salivation, vomiting and unconsciousness.

The HSUS provides this suggested treatment for heatstroke in dogs: Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.

The Montgomery County Police Animal Services Division reminds residents not to leave animals unattended in a motor vehicle. Violations of county or state code can result in the animal being removed from the vehicle and the owner being charged with cruelty to animals.  The Animal Services Division can issue a $500.00 civil citation to a pet owner for leaving an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under Chapter 5, 201 (a) (13).  In extreme cases, the pet owner may be charged under the Maryland Criminal Law 10-604 for animal cruelty.

There are additional heat-related safety concerns that the MCASAC staff joins the HSUS in providing:

Limit Exercise

Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.

Provide enough shade and water

Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it can make it worse.

A fan won’t help

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Consider the Humidity

Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society of Veterinary Medical Association explains, "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly." Taking a dog's temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs' temperatures should not be allowed to get over 104 degrees.

Concerns about the safety of an animal during extreme heat and at any time can be reported to the police non-emergency number 301-279-8000, or if it is an emergency to 9-1-1.                                                         # # #

Release ID: 16-439
Media Contact: Katherine Zenzano 240-773-5656, Lucille Baur 240-777-6507