NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Summer is on its way and it is getting hotter in Las Vegas every day.
Temperatures are rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, where they will stay until early fall. Many people enjoy the weather with barbecues and lazy days at the pool, and some like to bring their pets along.
As the temperatures rise, so does the potential for pets here to suffer heat related injuries.
The biggest issue to be concerned about is heat stroke, said Capt. (Dr.) Amanda Smith, the officer in charge of the Nellis Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility.
In the Las Vegas area, heat injuries to animals are a very common issue, Smith said. They can be so mild owners can often overlook them.
“In the really severe cases, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone running up to an emergency clinic with a dog that is already deceased,” Smith said.
“Last year I saw an American Bulldog that somebody took for a jog in the afternoon in August at about 3 p.m.,” Smith said. “The dog ended up collapsing and it actually ended up dying from its heat injury. The owner had no intention of harming the dog; it just was not something that they thought of. It was very sad.”
It is more common with dogs because most of the time dogs are the ones people take with them when they travel in their cars, Smith said. Dogs are the ones people take on walks, and the ones that are more likely to be left out in a yard.
There are types of dogs that are more predisposed to heat injury. Dogs with the very short faces, technically called brachycephalic, like boxers and bulldogs, are very susceptible. They tend to have extra tissue in their soft palate region so their panting, which is their main cooling mechanism, is not as efficient. Dogs that are overweight or elderly dogs tend to have a harder time dealing with the heat as well.
“There was a couple who took their bulldog on a short walk out in the desert,” said Joshua D. Chavez, Nellis Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility receptionist. “Next thing they know, they were rushing their bulldog into the clinic. The dog was dead within 30 minutes.”
“There is not a lot you can do for a dog in heat stroke even with a good emergency clinic nearby,” Chavez said.
“When it’s 110 [F] outside, even if they are sitting underneath a patio in the shade and they have fresh water outside, they can still get heat stroke,” Chavez said.
Heat stroke is not the only source of injuries for pets in the Las Vegas area.
Paw pad injuries can be pretty common in the summer when people take their dogs hiking or from the hot concrete on the sidewalk.
Usually cats are excellent at finding good spots where it is nice and cool, and they will just take a nap, Chavez said.
Another common cause of heat injury to pets is leaving them in a parked car. Even for a few minutes this is very dangerous and can result in the death of a pet.
According to the City of Las Vegas website, when outside temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside temperature in cars parked in direct sunlight can reach upwards of 150 degrees Fahrenheit
Not only is it dangerous, it is also illegal. An animal left in a vehicle with no water, no ventilation and no shade can die in minutes.
Per the city of Las Vegas Municipal Code, pet owners who leave animals in cars could face misdemeanor charges and up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine if found guilty.
There are some easy things people can do to ensure their pets stay healthy and safe this summer.
“Make sure your pets have access to shade and plenty of water,” Smith said. “Avoid exercise in the really hot part of the day. When you take your pets for a walk, don’t let your pets drink from standing water along the way. Watch out for the temperature of the concrete that your pet is walking on. Minimize the amount of time your pet spends in the extreme heat.”
For more summer safety tips and advice on how to care for your pets, call the Nellis Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility at (702) 652-8836.
The clinic is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. Another resource is the American Animal Hospital Association website at www.healthypet.com.