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Experts offer tips to keep pets cool this summer

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Kobe, a one year-old labrador retriever mix, eats a frozen treat at Pitt County Animal Shelter on June 22, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, June 23, 2018

As temperatures continue to rise, experts said the heat can prove deadly for pets who are left to fend for themselves.

Pitt County Animal Services Director Michele Whaley said animal control officers often deal with dogs being tied to trees or left outside with no shelter or fresh water to drink.

“Pets can go down really quick with the heat. It will kill them,” she said. “We'd love for everyone to take pets inside but at the minimum animals need to have a plentiful supply of water and shelter.”

Whaley said that it is important to notify animal control if an animal is spotted in a dangerous situation.

“We need to be cognizant of each other, especially any time pets are in the equation,” she said. “People watch these dogs and cats out in the heat every day and wait until the last minute to call us.”

On Thursday, Whaley’s staff found two dogs sitting in crates under a tree.

“That's just not acceptable. We can't leave an animal in distress,” she said.

To keep the four-legged residents of the Pitt County Animal Shelter cool, staff members and volunteers fill up kiddie pools, prepare frozen treats and turn on big industrial fans to keep the air flowing in the shelter's aging building.

Whaley said that the fans provide respite for the animals given that the HVAC system is not adequate.

“This is one of the big reasons we need the shelter renovation project going,” Whaley said.

“The kiddie pools and frozen treats are something that come from donations and out-of-pocket purchases made by shelter staff and volunteers,” she said. “The frozen treats are made using ice cube trays filled with chicken or beef broth, peanut butter and bananas.”

Whaley said that occasionally, animals are taken on walks early in the day but only for a short time and handlers use the grassy areas near the farmers market so that dogs do not burn their paws on the asphalt.

Whaley said that keeping her staff cool is imperative.

“I am really concerned about the staff as well as the animals,” she said. “I tell my staff to pay attention to the animals and to each other. We need to be very vigilant.”

The sweltering temperatures keep city animal services officers busy as well.

Beth Swartz, an animal protective services officer for the Greenville Police Department said she has seen an uptick in calls for dogs being left in hot cars or tired to trees.

While all situations are different, Swartz said she wants people to be responsible pet owners and take the necessary precautions to avoid precarious situations.

“Animal protective services tries to work with pet owners and we want to educate people on how to properly take care of their animals,” Swartz said.

Swartz said she recently has responded to several calls of dogs being left in cars, something she said people fail to recognize as incredibly dangerous.

“Within ten minutes, the temperature inside the car jumps 20 degrees,” Swartz said.

Swartz advises people who see a dog in distress to call for help, but not break out car windows.

“The best thing to do is call the Greenville Police Department right away,” she said. “Breaking the car window to save an animal is considered damage to property. Animals are considered property in the state of North Carolina.”

She added, “First responders can break a window to save an animal and can respond within minutes and quickly assess the situation to determine if an animal is in distress.”

Swartz said that APS officers carry water with them to help animals out in the short term. Long term, she recommends that people bring their pets inside the house or at the very least, provide their animal with adequate shelter.

“A dog house, shed. Something large enough for them to move around in,” she said.

If you like to walk your dogs, Swartz said to walk them early in the morning and evening but avoid asphalt, as it can burn their paws. Another no-no is having dogs sit in the back of the pickup truck. The surfaces they are sitting on can also heat up and damage a dog’s paws.

“Unless you take them inside everywhere you go, I suggest they stay home,” Swartz said.

Finally, summer means traveling for many families. Whaley recommended having making sure your pet is taken care of before leaving.

“If they're not going to board their pet, they really need to make sure their pet’s ID is up to date,” she said. “If the animal is not microchipped, it can be difficult for us to track and identify who the animal belongs to.

“Have a to-do list for the animal,” Whaley said. “Make sure vet records up to date. Make sure collar and tags are on. Give neighbors a heads up. Prepare as if you were leaving your child. Don't leave for the beach and have nobody check on your animal.”

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

Play it cool

Below are some tips from the Humane Society of the United States for keeping your pet cool:

Don't rely on a fan

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. Fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Limit exercise on hot days

Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature.

Provide ample shade and water

Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water.

Cool your pet inside and out

Keep your pet from overheating with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat.

Watch for signs of heat stroke.

Common signs include: laziness, fever, dizziness, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizures and loss of consciousness.

If your pet is suffering from a heat stroke, move them into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest, or run cool water over them.

Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Then take them to a veterinarian.

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