Recent British Veterinary Association research has shown that nearly half of vets (48%) questioned treated animals for conditions related to hot weather last summer - the vast majority of which were dogs.
According to the RSPCA, this situation poses a serious risk to dog welfare with many dying each year.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is therefore urging owners not to leave their dogs in the car, even for a short time, this summer.
Mayor, Councillor Billy Ashe explained the consequences could be catastrophic.
“We are urging dog owners not to leave their pet alone in the car, even with the windows left open,” he said.
“A car can become as hot as an oven very quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.
“Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.
“Under the Welfare of Animals Act you have a duty of care for your pet and if you put them at risk you could face prosecution. You would also have to live with the fact that your thoughtless action resulted in terrible suffering for your pet,” he said.
The early warning signs of heat stroke in dogs are:
A rapid pulse
Very red gums / tongue
Lack of co-ordination
Reluctance or inability to rise after collapsing
Loss of consciousness
If a dog shows any of these symptoms, the advice is - get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle or building, and then to a veterinarian immediately.
Provide water to drink, and if possible spray the dog with a garden hose or immerse him or her in a tub of cool (but not iced) water for up to two minutes in order to lower the body temperature gradually. You can also place the dog in front of an electric fan. Applying cool, wet towels to the groin area, stomach, chest, and paws can also help. Be careful not to use ice or cold water, and don’t overcool the animal.
Dog owners should also consider the temperature outside before walking their pet. During the summer months it can be better to walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening when it isn’t as hot. Hot sidewalks, pavement and parking lots can not only burn paws, they also reflect heat onto dogs’ bodies, increasing their risk of deadly heatstroke.
If anyone sees a dog left alone in a hot car and are concerned about the animal’s welfare please call the Animal Welfare Officer on 028 25633134, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm or on 07824994490 out of hours and during holiday periods. In the event of an emergency call 999.