My earliest experience as a vet dealing with a ‘proper’ emergency happened barely a week after graduating. A few of us baby-vets had gone to Cornwall for a few days of learning to surf, proudly celebrating the addition of nine brand new capital letters which now technically followed all of our names.
Returning from the hot sunny sandy beach, we noticed a kerfuffle involving police, a crowd of concerned onlookers, a car and a couple of massive fluffy-toy teddy-bears on the pavement – you know, like the tacky prizes you’d win on a typical Newquay fairground.
Sadly on closer inspection these pathetic lifeless objects couldn’t have been further from a double win on goldfish hoop-la. For two Chow Chow dogs had just been extracted from the vehicle; one was already dead and the other was fighting for her life.
A unique breed, the Chow Chow (pictured) originated in China centuries ago; employed to guard temples against evil spirits – before their well-muscled meat became a delicacy and their thick fur used for clothing.
We saved the second victim – working quickly to douse her with cold water, successfully performing CPR until her breathing became settled. But it’s impossible to imagine what those poor dogs must have felt trapped in that oven, unable to escape the oppressive heat and humidity. Yet locking dogs in cars on hot days is still unbelievably common nationwide.
As well as their (own) fur coats, dogs can’t sweat in the same way as we humans can – they pant to keep themselves cool – almost impossible in high temperature and humidity. And it’s not just cars that are the problem – caravans and conservatories can also prove deadly.
All dogs can suffer from heatstroke, and what’s more, open windows or water bowls make little difference too. Obvious warning signs include excessive panting and profuse salivation, usually preceded by a rapid pulse, diarrhoea, vomiting and even seizures.
So please keep your dog safe in the sun by providing an alternative cool ventilated environment. As well as never leaving your dog alone in a car, if you really do need to take your dog with you then please make sure that your destination is in fact dog-friendly.
Your pooch must always have access to a good supply of drinking water, be clipped, and walked early in the morning or late in the evening. Reduce exercise and prevent sunburn (applies to cats too) using pet-safe sunscreens on areas of skin lacking pigment.
Finally if you do ever come across a dog locked in a car on a hot day, please call the police immediately as it is now a crime in this country to allow any pet to suffer. Thank you.