The issue of pet abandonment rises in the summer months, as stated by veterinarians and animal welfare groups based in the UAE. But, another big issue is heat exhaustion amongst pets because their owners may not be aware of the effect the heat is having on their beloved pet.
Dr Mehdi Mzabi, partner at Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic in Dubai, told Gulf News: “Every year as we enter the summer period, we veterinarians see an increase in the number of heatstrokes or heat exhaustion in dogs. It is a syndrome of cellular damage caused by increased body temperature of more than 42C. Dogs are particularly exposed to heatstrokes largely because of their inability to sweat.
“Strokes happen, and can be fatal, when heat production overwhelms thermoregulation mechanisms. Thermoregulation refers to the ability to maintain a constant body temperature ranging from 38C to 39C in dogs. The degree of injury on the body depends on two factors — the magnitude of the temperature and the duration of the temperature elevation. All body-systems, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, central nervous system and muscles, are affected by heatstrokes, thus explaining the severity of the clinical presentation and the multitude of symptoms.”
So, how do owners know if their dog is having a stroke?
Mzabi said: “Symptoms of heatstroke include increased body temperature, panting, restlessness, vomiting and diarrhoea. A shock can develop as heatstroke syndrome progresses with a loss of consciousness, seizures and ultimately death. Treatment should be initiated as early as possible.”
Montserrat Martin, founder of Friends of Animals, has received calls from various pet owners talking about their pet’s sudden demise.
She said: “A few days ago we received an email from someone saying that his one-year-old German Shepherd was poisoned by someone. He said this happened when his dog was tied up to a tree, with food and water placed near him. But, when we diverted the case to the clinic, the vet said that the dog’s body temperature was so high that his vital organs were cooked. The owner’s ignorance killed his dog, and he didn’t even know about it.
“Last year, another person said he had left his dog in a car, with the window left open and the car parked in a mall parking lot. When he returned after 45 minutes, his dog was dead. Many of these cases are occurring due to lack of information.”
Martin says that the cases of abandonment in the summer are always a cause for concern.
She said: “Hundred of pets are abandoned yearly and many of those will end up dead. For whatever reason, when people leave the country for holiday, the last matter they look into is their pet’s situation. They are neglected and then pet owners will expect the responsibility to be absorbed by third parties. When left in boarding, pets will behave oddly, maybe be sad, restless or moody, all because the guardian they are devoted to has disappeared without their understanding.”
Keeping cool in the summer is very important for pets.
Martin said: “The basic advice would be access to clean water 24 hours a day, controlled temperature and playtime in shaded area. They should never be left outdoors, tied or in cages, under a tree or inside cars. People also need to be careful with their food. Wet food left out will likely have a load of bacteria. Store wet food in the fridge and warm it up before offering to your pet. Better yet, buy dry food in the summer. I recommend walking pets before sunrise or after sunset. Be very careful with their paws while outside, the pavement could be too hot.”
Jackie Covill, founder of animal welfare group Sandy Paws, agrees.
She said: “We lose many of our street cats and kittens every summer due to the heat. They just disappear. Kittens in particular cannot cope with the heat. The summer is when most people leave the country and leave their animals behind. They would throw them on the street, leave them locked in their homes, dump them at the vet or at shelters, essentially leaving them to a certain death. Pets just want to live indoors and not be in the heat. They can get very stressed and start behaving out of character.”
Dr Katrin Jahn, general manager and head veterinarian at German Veterinary Clinic in Abu Dhabi, is also concerned about pets being abandoned.
She said: “Luckily, we have not had any deaths to due heat exhaustion this year, which hopefully means that awareness is growing amongst pet owners. But, pet abandonment continues to be a huge problem, especially when people leave the UAE to return to their home countries and leave their pets here due to lack of finances or space. Some people have left their animals in our boarding facility and never returned.”
As far as the heat is concerned, Jahn urges people to be very careful.
She said: “Keep them in an air-conditioned space during the hot times of the day and offer plenty of cooled water. There are also products, such as cooling bandannas, blankets and jackets that can help.
Many pets benefit from having their coats trimmed, thinned or shaved.
“Going for a walk depends on the size of your dog, how long or thick its coat is, whether it is overweight and if the pavement is very hot or if you have an alternative, like grass, to walk on. Dogs can wear booties to protect their sensitive paws from getting burnt. I would also take into account the humidity in the mornings and always plan just a short walk with plenty of fresh, cool water as early in the morning as possible, preferably not on concrete.”