Temperatures are rising in Southwest Colorado, which means it is time for pet owners to consider the safety and comfort of their furry companions as more people venture outdoors.
With temperatures starting to soar, pets can experience different dangers, including heatstroke, burned paws and rattlesnake bites.
Extreme heat can cause serious problems for pets, including irreversible organ damage and even death.
Heatstroke, which affects animals more than people, occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature.
If a pet is experiencing a heatstroke, put cool water on the animal’s head, stomach and paws to help cool it. If a pet has had a heatstroke, take the animal to the veterinarian immediately after cooling it.
It is important not to use cold water because it can shock the animal, said Anna “Annie” Anderson, owner of Annie’s Orphans.
Pet owners should be aware of the temperature, especially in a parked car where the temperature inside the vehicle can be significantly hotter than the outside temperature.
A car parked in 70-degree weather can reach 89 degrees after 10 minutes, according to information from the American Veterinary Medical Association. A car parked in 90-degree weather can reach a scorching 109 degrees after 10 minutes. If a driver leaves the car for an hour in 70-degree heat, the internal temperature of the car could reach 138 degrees.
Barbara Hjermstad, hospital manager at Riverview Animal Hospital, said the clinic sees one to two dogs die from heat-related illness each summer.
Overheating in cars is not the only heat-related risk for pets. Their paws can also burn on asphalt. Owners concerned about the temperature of cement or asphalt can place their own hand on the blacktop for four seconds to test the temperature, Anderson said.
There are a few other things animal lovers can do to help keep their pets safe during the summer.
One way of keeping pets healthy in high temperatures is to leave them at home, Anderson said.
If pets are left at home, they should have shade if left outside.
Another way to keep pets safe is to know the signs of heatstroke, including excessive panting and lethargy (unable to walk).
People should also remember to take water for their pets on long walks or hikes. Knowing how much to bring depends on the size of the dog.
Dog owners can also find temperature vests online to help cool down their pets.
Heat is not the only danger to be aware of during warmer months.
Rattlesnakes have bitten dogs in the past. Anderson said there have been multiple incidents at the Durango Dog Park. But rattlesnakes are not the only creature pets should avoid.
Anderson said she has picked off 50 to 60 ticks already this spring from dogs at the shelter. Ticks are able to go from animals to humans, she said.
If dog owners are going into the woods with their pets, they should remain vigilant of ticks.
Anderson said that foxtail, a plant seen locally, can also pose problems for dogs, including infection if it makes it way into the fur and skin.