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Protect Your Pets from the Heat

An animal expert offers tips to keep your family pet safe.

With temperatures in the 90s and humidity hitting like a brick wall, an animal rescue expert is reminding people to take extra precautions to keep their pets cool.

So what exactly should you do, and what shouldn’t you?

“The same thing you would do with children and older people,” according to Dr. Sheldon Yessenow, a veterinarian at in Stratford. “Animals can over heat very easily. They don’t perspire like humans do.”

Yessenow explained that cats and dogs sweat mostly by panting and, to a lesser degree, through the pads on their paws. The humidity that has blanketed the area intensifies the potential danger, Yessenow noted.

“You don’t want to leave your dog or cat in the car – even with the windows down,” Yessenow said.

He spoke of how the temperature in a parked car can quickly rise to upwards of 140 degrees in a matter of minutes.

As for tips, he said, “A lot of it is common sense.”

  • Provide pets with plenty of fresh water.
  • Don’t take walks until later at night when the temperature cools down.
  • Be careful about walking a dog on pavement or similar surfaces -- just think how hot the sand can get at the beach, he said. Dogs’ paw pads can burn.
  • “Just keep them at home," he said. "Keep them home in the shade.”

Certain breeds are also more susceptible to heatstroke, Yessenow said, particularly those with short snouts like pugs and boxers. “They get into trouble first,” he said. Baby animals and older ones are also at increased risk, he added.

“It’s life-threatening,” he said of the intense heat and humidity.

Yessenow speaks from experience. He’s been a vet for 34 years and just this Tuesday celebrated his 29th anniversary at Oronoque.

The Trumbull resident is also a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Veterinary Response Team and one of five team leaders in Connecticut who coordinate animal response efforts through the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. His region of responsibility for the latter covers 14 towns from Greenwich to Stratford.

And his dedication and involvement have led him to respond to one of the country’s worst natural disasters in history – Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of that tragedy in 2005, Yessenow spent three weeks working at an animal shelter in Louisiana.

A few years earlier, when massive flooding hit Kentucky in 2003, Yessenow witnessed the horrifying reality that intense heat can have on animals. Eleven dogs that were transported to Stratford to escape the danger ended up dying in a truck outside Yessenow’s office when the driver reportedly left them in a van on a hot August day. The driver was arrested.

“I’ve seen my fair share,” Yessenow said. “They’re always sad because no one thinks it’s going to happen.”

The website, Dog Breed Info Center, offers a list of symptoms of heatstroke in dogs. They are:

  • Rapid heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Petechiae (pinpoint, deep-red hemorrhages on gums/ skin)
  • Bright red mucous membranes on the gums and conjunctiva of the eyes
  • Hyperventilation (gasping for air)
  • Salivation early then dry gums as heat prostration sets in
  • Staring
  • Glassy eyes
  • Anxious expression
  • Refusal to obey commands
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

The site recommends that dog owners contact their vet immediately if a pet exhibits any of these symptoms.

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