Monitor loved ones, pets as daytime heat soars

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: June 22, 2006

The dog days of summer can be especially hard on dogs.

As the mercury starts to hover consistently in the mid-90s, social service agencies in Calhoun County are gearing up for a spike in the number of both people and animals suffering problems from the heat.

Pets are at risk of heat exhaustion and stroke. Children, the elderly, and disabled or sick people also need to be aware of dehydration and overheating.

Last summer, there were two heat-related deaths in Calhoun County, said Coroner Bill Partridge. Angie Persch, executive director of The Animal Shelter, said she frequently hears of animals succumbing to the heat during the summer months.

“People will come in and say, ‘My dog just died,'” Persch said. “Well, why do you think it just died?”

Dogs are susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke because they don’t sweat, Persch said. Instead, they pant heavily to cool themselves down, a sign a dog is overheated. Other indicators include looking delirious, walking in circles, and staring vacantly. Cats also are at risk, but they are more able to climb into small, cool spots.

If dogs have to stay outside, they need a supply of water and a shady area. Leaving a dog in a car for any amount of time is a “big no-no,” Persch said.

“Outside, it could 80 degrees, (but) inside your car it’s 105 even if you have an inch rolled down on the windows,” she said. “You may be away for 15 minutes to pay a bill and you go back and your dog will be dead.”

The Community Action Agency in Anniston helps people pay their electricity bills so that they can keep the air-conditioning turned on during the summer months. Assistant Manager Sharon Buard-Stockdale said the agency provides assistance to low-income families and sees 30 to 35 people a day.

“A lot of them are asthmatic, (they have) bronchitis, health problems like heart problems,” Buard-Stockdale said. “They’re taking a lot of medications so they need to be in a cool and stable environment.”

As with animals, water and shade are two of the main ingredients for coping with the heat. Avoiding hot foods, salt, alcohol and heavy meals is also helpful, Buard-Stockdale said.

“They should stay in as much as they can and … drink a lot of liquids and wear less clothing, different things like that,” she said.

Persch of The Animal Shelter said pet owners often don’t realize that their animals are becoming dehydrated. Partridge, the coroner, said the same holds true for people.

“Some people can’t afford to have air conditioning and they don’t realize how hot they’re getting,” he said.

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