The safest place for your pet — home

OKEECHOBEE — August is referred to as The Dog Days of Summer with its relentless heat, and pet owners need to keep that in mind when they leave their pets unattended in a vehicle.

Such was the case Thursday afternoon when a woman left her dog inside her automobile and the dog accidentally locked the door of the 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt. The keys were apparently left in the ignition and the car was not running so the animal had no cool air.

Deputy Sergeant Matt Hurst and Deputy Quinton Speed, who are both with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), responded to N.W. Sixth Street at 12:02 p.m. Twelve minutes later the car door was unlocked and the panting pooch was rescued.

“Never leave your pet in a parked car — not even in the shade or if you plan to be gone for only a few minutes,” stated Michele Bell, OCSO public information officer. “The temperature inside a car can reach oven-like temperatures in just minutes — often in excess of 140 degrees. That quick errand can turn into a disaster and could be fatal for your pet.”

On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 119 degrees in just 30 minutes. If the outside temperature is 95 degrees, as it has been recently, the temperature inside your car can reach 129 degrees in 30 minutes.

She went on to suggest that pet owners not let their four-legged friend tarry on hot surfaces like asphalt and cement during the sweltering Florida heat.

“Being so close to the ground can heat their body quickly, and is also an invitation to burns on sensitive paw pads,” she added.

Mrs. Bell went on to offer these suggestions:
• Keep walks to a minimum;
• Give your dog a lightweight summer haircut that can help prevent overheating. But, never shave the hair to the skin. A dog needs 1-inch of protection to avoid getting sunburned;
• Provide access to fresh water at all times. Make certain an outside dog has access to shade and plenty of cool water;
• Restrict exercise when temperatures soar;
• Don’t muzzle your dog because it inhibits their ability to pant; and,
• Many dogs enjoy a swim, splashing in a wading pool or a run through a sprinkler in the warmer weather. This can help bring your pet’s body temperatures down.

Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat. They rely mainly on their respiratory tract to dissipate heat. Dogs with more nasal surface area — such as greyhounds, German Shepherds and labs — are more efficient at dispelling heat. But “smush faced” breeds like Pugs, bulldogs or Shih Tzus are more prone to overheating due to shorter nasal passages.

So, what do you do when you return to your car and find your dog lying on his side — unresponsive and breathing heavily?

DO NOT apply ice. This changes the body temperature much too quickly.

But DO apply tepid water, turn on you car’s air conditioner and immediately beat a path to your veterinarian’s office.

You can also rub alcohol to the foot pads, inner ears and belly to help increase heat expulsion. But, the main priority is to get to the vet immediately.

While you may enjoy taking your dog with you — and there’s no doubt Fido enjoys going with you — the safest place for your pet is your home.

Don’t leave your dog in the car in the summer heat.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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