Jun. 26—As temperatures continue to rise, local veterinarians remind dog owners to keep an eye on their pets during the summer heat.
Dr. Mark Ferrell, who has owned and operated Town and Country Veterinary Clinic in McAlester since 1998, said the first thing that comes to his mind in preventing summer-related health issues is keeping dogs out of hot vehicles.
"How quickly an enclosed car in summertime in Oklahoma, the temperature can get up so high so fast," Ferrell said. "And so you don't want to leave your dogs in a car — really for any period of time in the Oklahoma summer."
The ASPCA says on an 85-degree day, a vehicle's interior temperatures can climb over 100 degrees in only ten minutes and can jump to 120 degrees in half an hour.
Another of Ferrell's concerns is how hot concrete and asphalt gets.
According to the ASPCA, even if the outside air temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the asphalt temperature can reach up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit due to heating from the sun.
"Yeah, dogs' kind of have some shoes on with their pads," said Ferrell. "But those things are sensitive and those can burn through."
The ASPCA also states dogs who are lower to the ground can also heat up quickly, putting them at risk for heat stroke.
Dr. Stephen Walker, who is a veterinarian at Patton Animal Hospital and Oklahoma Vet Med in McAlester, says the signs of dog suffering from a heat stroke are obvious.
"If a dog is panting to the point it cant seem to catch its breath," said Walker. "If they are laying there and they are panting so hard they can't get their breath, then you got some problems."
Walker said if circumstances arise that an owner can't get their dog to a vet in a timely manner, to use cool water on the dog's legs and torso.
"Try to avoid, if you can, the head," said Walker. "Try to cool down the rest of the body and keep track of their temperature if you have a thermometer. When it gets down below 102, you should be okay."
Both veterinarians recommend if a dog is going to be outside for an extended period of time, to make sure the animal has plenty of fresh, cool water.
Ferrell brought up his days of working on his family farm in southwest Oklahoma as an example of having fresh cool water.
"As a youngster on dad's tractor and trying to drink hot water, yeah, you drank it, but it was horrible," said Ferrell.
Ferrell said as long as plenty of water is available, the dogs will drink it on their own.
When it comes to acclimating to the Oklahoma heat, Ferrell said most dogs will actually do well getting used to the heat.
"Most dogs, with maybe the exception of some of the northern dogs, can actually withstand the Oklahoma heat really well if they acclimate to it," said Ferrell. "As long as they have shade and water."
Ferrell also gave some tips when it comes to exercising a dog in the summer.
"If they get out and exercise too much, just like people, they can heat stroke," said Ferrell.
Ferrell said the best times to exercise are during the morning and late evening hours since a dog's ability to cool themselves is different than humans.
"They cool themselves by panting and moving air in and out through the oral cavity," said Ferrell. "They really don't sweat."
Ferrell said the most important thing during any activity with a pet is to watch the animal and know when to wind things down.
"We just have to be cognizant of all them things," said Ferrell.
Walker said probably the most important thing a dog owner can do is to vaccinate and treat their animal with preventatives to keep their pet happy and healthy.
"We've been having parvo this year like I've never seen it before. I'm concerned we have a new strain coming through," said Walker.
Walker also said problems from worms and other parasites that become prevalent during the summer months can be easily prevented with medication.
"During the winter, the larvae that crawl around looking to infect are held in check by cold weather," said Walker. "When it gets warm and wet like it is now, they start moving around and we really start having parasite problems."
Another disease that becomes prevalent during the summer months is Leptospirosis, which in dogs can cause fever, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
"You can vaccinate against it," said Walker.
Those who are looking for a companion to join them on summer trips or to lounge around with at home during the summer heat can find a new pet at the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter.
The adoption fee for a dog or a cat at the shelter is $20.
"It includes age appropriate up to date vaccinations, spay or neuter, microchipping, deworming, and flea and tick treatment," said Pittsburg County Animal Shelter Director Michele Van Pelt.
A foster program is also available at the shelter for puppies and kittens.
Puppies and kittens who are at least six weeks old are available to be fostered.
"The person who is fostering will need to bring the animal back for vaccinations and deworming until they are big enough for spay or neuter surgery, which is usually around three months with kittens needing to weight three pounds," said Van Pelt.
There is no longer an appointment required to visit the shelter, located at 1206 N. West St. in McAlester, and can be reached by calling 918-423-7803. For up-to-date photos of animals available for adoption visit the shelter's Facebook page by searching "Pittsburg County Animal Shelter."
Editor Adrian O'Hanlon III contributed to this report.