Springtime Temperature Rise Brings Concerns for Dog Safety

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With almost 70,000 animals treated each year, the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center is one of the busiest 24-7 emergency and specialty veterinary hospitals in the world—and springtime in New England is one of the busiest seasons.

“After a long winter we’re arriving at what feels like spring, and the longer days, sunshine and warming temperatures are encouraging us to spend as much time outside as possible,” said Dr. Kiko Bracker of Angell’s Emergency & Critical Care Unit.

“But we must remember that our pets have spent the last six months mostly inside and disaster—in the form of heat stroke or death—can strike if they’re suddenly forced to engage in strenuous outdoor activity without time to acclimate.”

Warm Temperatures Demand Caution
Dr. Bracker urges caution to ensure the transition from the lazy winter slumber to springtime excess goes smoothly for pets. Topping the list of veterinarians’ concerns: heat.

“Most people think the intense late summer heat waves are the most dangerous period for pets—but in reality we see far more cases of heat stroke in the early spring,” said Dr. Bracker. “Pets are well acclimated by August—it’s this transition period marked by a sudden leap from frigid to mild temperatures that is the most dangerous.”

Pet owners should start exercising dogs slowly, increasing the duration and length of walks by no more than ten percent over the course of two to three weeks while allowing plenty of time for rest.

“The key signs of heat stress include heavy panting and a much slower pace,” added Dr. Bracker, who cautions pet owners to never ignore these signs and to allow dogs to rest if they suspect heat exhaustion.

Additional heat safety recommendations include:
• Scheduling a check-up. A springtime check-up will reveal any heart or respiratory issues that should be addressed before pets become more active in the summer months
• Ensure ready access to shade, water and rest—parks with leafy trees and soft ground along with streams or ponds (in which dogs can cool off) offer wonderful recreational opportunities with plenty of opportunities to cool off
• Exercise dogs in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are lower
• Be especially cautious with dogs who have short noses, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, as these dogs are particularly vulnerable to overheating

Beware Hot Cars!
While temperatures are still relatively cool it is never too early to warn against the dangers of hot cars. Pets should never be left unattended in cars, which can heat up to 110 degrees in 10 minutes on an 80-degree day even with the windows slightly open. It is safer to leave our pets at home.

MSPCA-Angell Advocacy Director Kara Holmquist encourages all citizens to understand what steps to take if they see an animal in distress in a hot car.

“State law dictates very specific steps before intervening and the first thing we should do is call 911 and then set about trying to find the animal’s owner,” said Holmquist. “As a last resort, and if the animal is in immediate danger, the law allows a person to break the window to remove the pet from the vehicle.”