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Don’t think for a minute that dogs can survive in a hot car

Veterinarian Shawn Messonnier, with Rita, says that  "a matter of minutes, five or 10 minutes," is all it takes on a hot day for a dog to wind up organ-damaged or dead.

(Photo) Veterinarian Shawn Messonnier, with Rita, says that “a matter of minutes, five or 10 minutes,” is all it takes on a hot day for a dog to wind up organ-damaged or dead.

It’s 11 a.m., 75 degrees…

In the Safeway parking lot, two hairy dogs are panting and pacing in a car with windows cracked about 5 inches. They’re hot and unhappy, but not yet in distress, I think. I wait a couple of minutes, then call the humane society. I share the facts, including that one dog has just crammed itself under the steering wheel, evidently to get out of the blazing sunlight.

They believe the dogs will be OK until help can arrive — five minutes.

Animal-control guy rolls up in four, eyeballs the situation and decides to give the owner a few more minutes to emerge.

Owner blusters up just under the deadline, annoyed that people surround his car. Doors are flung open, water offered. Owner receives a stern lecture.

I hope it made an impact. Too many locked-in-cars dogs die horrible deaths every summer, their brains, their organs literally heated into mush.

I have to assume that most owners who take dogs in vehicles love those animals. And that until the awful moment of returning to a stifling car and discovering the tragic aftermath of a bad choice, they just didn’t fully understand (despite warnings from vets and humane organizations) how fast things go really bad.

So maybe this will help: a graphic description of exactly what occurs when a dog (and it’s almost always dogs, since few people take cats for rides) is closed in a hot car.

Plano, Texas, veterinarian Shawn Messonnier, who knows something about hideous heat and animals and who has written several books, including Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets, out next month, agreed to be brutally descriptive about the process and physiology of heat stroke.

First, he says, it’s important to understand that the temperature doesn’t have to be in the 90s for a car-bound animal to be in deep trouble. At much lower temperatures, particularly if the sky is cloudless, the humidity high or the car dark-colored, a vehicle becomes a sauna fast. And cracking windows a few inches accomplishes practically nothing (though many owners of now-dead pets thought it would).

In fact, researchers learned that when it’s a sunny 78 degrees, the temperature in a parked car with windows cracked rises at least 32 degrees in 30 minutes. So: 78 degrees to 110 in half an hour.

“A matter of minutes, five or 10 minutes” is all it takes on a hot day for a dog to wind up organ-damaged or dead, Messonnier says.

Here’s how it progresses: First, the dog pants hard, trying the only way it can to cool off. As the temperature rises and the dog realizes it’s in trouble, it becomes frantic, tries to get out, scratching at windows or digging at the seat or floor. It’s an awful moment, the dog’s moment of realization. “If you want to compare it to humans,” says Messonnier, “it would be this: The person is too hot, stifling, feeling trapped. But a person knows things can be done,” like smashing a window or blowing the horn for help. Dogs, of course, panic, since they can devise no strategies other than digging desperately. They often bloody themselves in this effort to survive. Some have heart attacks.

The panic doesn’t last long. Very quickly the dog goes prostrate, begins vomiting, having diarrhea and lapsing into unconsciousness. Organs are disintegrating. “All organs function properly within a certain temperature range, and when body temperature reaches a certain level, organ cells begin dying. There’s inflammation, white blood cells rush in … a cascade of things happens in minutes,” he says. Liver, brain, kidneys are dying.

“When you do an autopsy on a dog that died this way, the organs are soupy.”

If caught quickly enough, some dogs can be saved. It’s crucial to open car windows, turn on air conditioning and race to the nearest vet, dousing the dog in cool water if possible during the trip, putting something cool under each armpit and against the groin (“but don’t waste 20 minutes trying to gather up those last things,” Messonnier says, as it’s most important to get experts involved fast).

“If you’ve caught it early enough and you’re real lucky, there will be no permanent damage,” he says, though ascertaining that is a “waiting game” since some dogs that seem to have pulled through have liver or kidney damage that may not be obvious at first.

It’ll likely cost “several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars” to save a dog with heatstroke.

Not to mention the misery the animal has endured.

The reality is those “dashes” into the market while the dog waits in the car are rarely as quick as we expect. I know of an owner who ran into the bank, tripped while walking to the counter, knocked himself out, and by the time he regained sense (not long) and got someone to check on the dog in his car, it was too late. That’s the kind of thing that could happen, really, during any dash-in visit.

There’s also the person who left the car running with the air conditioner on to keep the dog cool. Car quit running. You can imagine the results.

And, by the way, snub-nosed dogs such as boxers and pugs have an even higher risk of overheating because they don’t cool efficiently.

I hate to be so grim.

But really, if it saves a dog …

Good Reminder!!  Thanks to Sharon L. Peters – Pet Talk, USA TODAY

Posted:  Just One More Pet

July 16, 2009 Posted by | animal abuse, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Reverse Sneezing, Chihuahua Honks or Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex

Reverse sneezing:  Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex or Paroxysmal Respiration isn’t a sneeze at all and isn’t an illness, but it is a condition that small dog owners should be aware of.

b-and-w-chiIf you have ever been startled by your dog or cat exhibiting snorting, honking and gasping noises you have probably experienced reverse sneezing.  It makes you feel helpless while you watch your canine or feline friend appear to be struggling to breathe, but although alarming, especially to a first time pet owner, it appears and sounds much worse than it is.

There is no reason to panic. Reverse sneezing is not a serious condition andgenerally poses no threat to a dog or cat”s health or longevity. They are not having a seizure, and it also actually has nothing to do with sneezing, but is a spasm caused by an irritation of the soft palate. The soft palate is a soft, fleshy tissue extension off the hard palate, or roof of the mouth. Small dogs in particular can exhibit this behavior and certain breeds may be predisposed to it. It has sent many a distraught owner to the vet in panic.

Reverse Sneeze Videos: 

Reverse Sneeze

Maggie reverse sneezes 

Puggle Preston Reverse Sneezing

Some animals can have this condition for their entire lives, or it may develop as the dog ages. During the spasm, the pet will usually turn their elbows outward and extend their neck while gasping inwards with a distinctive snorting sound. Gently massaging the throat area or pinching their nostrils shut so they must breath through their mouth can help shorten the episode. Sometimes taking the pet outside in the fresh air stops the spasm. Once the attack ceases, all goes back to normal.

(Another technique sometimes used to stop a bout of canine reverse sneezing by behavior specialist Sarah Wilson is to try to get the dog to swallow, touching the back of the tongue if that is safe.  Sounds like it would work with a cat as well.)

It is thought that the pharyngeal spasm can be caused by a number of irritants, including dust and pollen, or household chemicals. Moreover, some dogs can launch an episode after eating, drinking or running around, becoming anxious or excited or while pulling on the leash.

If your pet (more dogs than cats suffer from it) experiences this behavior fairly frequently and the episodes are severe, a trip to the vet is in order to determine other possible causes, which can include viral infections, polyps, excessive soft palate tissue, and nasal mites. However, many cases of reverse sneezing appear to have no identifiable cause.

A small Chihuahua Beagle mix, Cela, was extremely prone to severe middle-of-the-night reverse sneezing episodes when she first came to her terrified then-foster mom (now adoptive mom) sending them both to the vet in alarm. The vet anesthetized Cela and explored the little dog’s sinus cavities as best she could to see if anything was embedded in her sinus passages. Nothing was found, and after a short course of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, Cela recovered completely.

In hindsight, it seems quite likely that the time of year, autumn, with its accompanying proliferation of allergens, combined with the stress of being in a new household, may have contributed to Cela’s pronounced reverse sneezing. Since the initial episodes subsided, the little dog has had only one or two minor incidences.

Reverse sneezing appears a lot worse than it is, generally posing no health threats whatsoever. Typically, an episode of reverse sneezing will end soon on its own. Nevertheless, understanding and recognizing the syndrome can go a long way toward helping pet owners and their dogs or cats cope with it. Reverse sneezing should not be confused with Collapsed Trachea, a congenital condition characterized by a frequent cough, a honking rather than a snorting sound, and shortness of breath.

Tracheal collapse is a progressive, chronic, debilitating disease occurring primarily in middle-aged toy-breed dogs.  Pomeranians, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas are most commonly affected.  The clinical signs of tracheal collapse are a chronic nonproductive cough, exercise intolerance, and varying degrees of dyspnea.  The cough often resembles a “honking-sound.”  Clinical signs are exacerbated by excitement or anxiety and may proceed to collapse and syncope. The dorsal membrane and cartilage rings are both involved in the degenerative process.  The rings become hypoplastic or fibrodystrophic and cannot maintain the normal C-shaped configuration. 

Dogs or cats suffering from a reverse sneeze may stand up, extend their neck, make snorting or honking noises, open their mouth, and appear distressed and frightened. Reverse sneezing is triggered by an irritant or activity that initiates the reflex. For some pets this can occur when they are excited, exercising or eating and drinking too fast. The pressure of a collar on the trachea during leash walking also can set off spasms. And reverse sneezing can be associated with allergies, viruses, pollen, foreign bodies, postnasal drip, perfumes, chemical odors, tumors or infections.

Another common cause of reverse sneezing in dogs is the nasal mite Pneumonyssoides caninum. These small mites live in the nasopharynx of dogs and are a source of constant irritation. The mites are extremely small and difficult to visualize, but easy to treat with routine anti-parasitic dewormers.

Brachycephalic animals, those with short noses, are more prone to reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing closely resembles asthma, a common cause of respiratory distress in cats. Asthma can be life-threatening and should be ruled out in cats with respiratory signs.

For many dogs and cats reverse sneezing is a one-time or occasional episode that does not require any treatment.  But if the problem repeats itself and becomes a ‘chronic condition’, treatment may be necessary. The first step to treating the spasms is to identify the underlying cause. Antihistamines work well for allergic reactions, while the removal of offensive odors and chemicals will help those animals with sensitivities. If the pet has a nasal discharge or airflow through the nostrils is reduced, then other measures will need to be taken.

Rhinoscopy is the diagnostic tool of choice when examining the nasopharynx. Foreign bodies, nasal tumors or fungal infections can be diagnosed with plain film X-rays of the head.  For severe cases surgery is available.

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May 4, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments