Last year I wrote a blog on the unexpected death of a beloved pet in a grooming shop due to heat stroke. A group of industry leaders, including myself declared June 13, 2014 as Heatstroke Awareness Day. To continue this consciousness, welcome to Heatstroke Awareness Day 2015. As the warmer weather is upon us, it is important to remember the how easy it is for a pet to suffer from heatstroke. None of us wants to injure or kill a pet in our care, so it is important to realize how this happened in the first place and make changes.
Let's make 2015 the year we don't hear stories like this one.
” I left my baby in what I thought to be the capable hands of a well-respected groomer. A few hours later I got a phone call…I was expecting a call around that time to come and pick him up. Instead I had to decipher the words of a sobbing groomer as she explained that she had found Bugzy dead in the drying kennel. I was in shock. It didn’t seem real. “ recounts the tearful mom.
Why don't groomers notice when pets are in distress? There are several possible reasons that come to mind:
1. The drying cages were out of their field of vision.
2. Not regularly checking on pets while they were drying because they were out of their field of vision. Time is relative. You may not think more than 5 minutes has passed, when in reality, its been at least a half hour.
3. Can't see the pet was in distress because the pet was out of their field of vision.
Do we see the connection here? There was no one monitoring the pets while they were exposed to heat with little to no air circulation.
How do you make a change?
1. Rearrange the grooming room so that the drying cages are in your field of vision.
2. If that is not feasible, then station someone in the drying area to monitor.
3. Set an alarm for 10 minutes, and visually check on each pet.
4. Mobile groomers are not immune to this this just because they do not cage dry. They are metal cans that heat up very quickly in warmer weather. The best safety tool I have is my Too Hot For Spot window temperature cling. It tells me how hot the interior is BEFORE I begin grooming. I know whether or not my A/C cab cool down the inside enough to work.
Notice that I did not suggest just using dryers with no heating elements. Drying a wet pet with cool air can result in hypothermia. You still need to monitor that pet.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke begins when the pets’ body temperature surpasses 104 degrees. The factors that set the stage for heatstroke is when the temperature in their environment (cage dryer) becomes higher than their body temperature with little or no air circulation (cage), high humidity (heavy panting) and close quarters (cage). The risk is much higher if groomers cover cages with towels to speed up drying. This is the exact same scenario when people leave their pets in a hot car to go shopping.
Signs of heatstroke include lethargy, heavy breathing and panting, bright red gums and tongue, vomiting and diarrhea. Heatstroke can cause shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, and heart abnormalities among other complications. Damage can become irreversible once their body temperature reaches 106 degrees. Death follows. It is imperative that the pet receives medical attention before their temperature reaches 106 degrees. The only way to prevent this is with constant monitoring of the drying area. Minutes can make the difference between the life, quality of life, and death.
Very young, very old, immune compromised, brachycephalic (dogs with pushed in faces), pregnant, and nursing dogs, as well as all cats are more susceptible to heatstroke.
What can be done if heatstroke occurs?
1. Remove the pet from the hot environment!
2. Lower the body temperature by wetting with cool water.
3. Do not use cold water or ice water. It is counterproductive. It will shock the system and cause a thermal barrier. The pet will be unable to cool itself.
4. Contact a veterinarian for instructions.
5. Transport to veterinarian as soon as possible.
This is a preventable accident. Drying cages are one of our tools. Use it responsibly. If you do not have someone to monitor the pets while drying, then table dry them. There is an empty home right now that needn’t be.
Let Heat Awareness Day 2015 be cause for celebration rather than a cautionary tale.