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Pet Safety in the Heat: Vets say rising temperatures mean rising cases of heatstroke, burnt paws

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Posted at 7:18 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 19:18:59-04

BRADENTON, Fla. — Marianne Novelli rescued Finnegan after hurricane Irma, and she says he rescued her right back.

"I knew the minute I saw him that he was mine," said Novelli.

But she says she takes extra precautions because Finnegan doesn't do well when the temperatures rise.

"This is a cooling bandana that you keep in the refrigerator, and it helps keep him cool as we walk," said Novelli.

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And with some of the hottest temperatures of the year this week, veterinarians say making sure your dog stays cool is critical.

"You have to be very careful; animals don't sweat to release heat like we do," said Dr. Crystal Berarducci, veterinarian and co-owner of Braden River and North River Animal Hospitals in Manatee County.

Dr. Berarducci says as temperatures rise, so do the number of dogs suffering from heatstroke and burnt paws.

"We do see a lot of heat stokes, unfortunately. I've seen some come in from just being outside for 5 or 10 minutes in the middle of the day, and their temperatures are 107, 109. At that point, we have to try and cool them down and hope that there isn't brain damage or body organ damage," said Berarducci.

Dr. Berarducci says hot pavement also poses a big concern.

"The other thing we see a lot of is they burn their paw pads, and they rub them off. They burn like blisters, then come off and are exposed and very painful. It's something we deal with a lot here, said Berarducci.

Many vets say there's a quick way to test if it's too hot to trot.

They say to rest your hand on the pavement for seven seconds, and if it's too hot for your hand, then it's too hot for your hound.

Vets also say to NEVER EVER leave your pet alone in a parked car, not even for a minute. Not only is it illegal in Florida, but even with the windows cracked, on an 85-degree day, temperatures can climb to a deadly 120 in a matter of minutes.

Veterinarians say tips on how to keep your dogs safe in the heat include:

  • Only walk them in the morning and evening when it's cooler; if they must go out in between, make sure it's quick and a grassy and shaded area
  • Check pavement with hand before walking
  • When you do go outside, make sure they have shade and water
  • And a rule of thumb, when its hot, leave them home

"If you're with them and you bring water and shade that’s great, but it not always enough, it’s better to leave them at home in the air conditioning," said Berarducci.

Veterinarians say symptoms that your pet may be overheating include:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse.
  • Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.

*Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heatstroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

Veterinarians say if you do believe your pet is overheating, it's important to get to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

As for Novelli, she says she makes sure Finnegan only goes out when the sun is low and that he has plenty of water and shade to keep him safe, cool and comfortable.

"He's everything to me; he's my best friend," said Novelli.