By Dr. Gary Borgman, DVM
Practicing veterinarians invite and welcome questions about animal health issues. In fact, this is a very large part of what we do. We are here to answer questions, concerns and to assess the situations as presented. Of course we also ask a lot of questions on the phone and in the examination room. The subjective information from pet owners plus our objective findings through examination, diagnostic tests and procedures come together to form an initial assessment and plan to proceed.
One question that was recently passed to me through the Osceola Woman office was to please address the harmful effect to pet paws from hot pavements. Dogs can indeed be injured by prolonged exposure to a hot asphalt or concrete pavement, but fortunately it does not occur very often. The foot pads are a thick collection of specialized keratin which actually protects the sensitive and alive tissues beneath the pads. We all can relate to walking on a hot pool deck or side walk and quickly getting off! Human feet are much more sensitive to the heat than are dog feet. If a dog is inadvertently exposed to such heat they will usually seek to get off it as soon as possible. If an owner suspects that the pads have been overheated, I recommend cool ice water as soon as possible to minimize the damage. I can recall only a few cases of real damage to canine feet and they all recovered very quickly. Since cats are not usually walked on a leash, they will instinctively avoid such surfaces. I do not recall ever seeing feline feet burned from such exposure.
One very sad case I do recall was with a family who had traveled here from a northern state. They had filled a tub of water with warm water to give their pet a bath before heading south. Somehow, the hose supplying water into the tub, apparently hooked to a hot water faucet in the laundry room, had inadvertently scalded the pet, resulting in severe third degree burns over the entire body. The family arrived in FL with a very injured pet and the unfortunate patient was humanely euthanized. I hesitated to write about this incident but it does reinforce that burning accidents can occur and we all want to help prevent such incidents.
Generalized hyperthermia and fatal heat stroke is much more likely to happen to our pets, especially when animals are left unattended in a closed or mostly closed vehicle. Just today, I read about the arrest of a man for animal cruelty because he had left his dog in a car with windows partly open for a few hours, while he patronized a bar. Yes, the pet perished! Hyperthermia can occur for a variety of reasons. A second situation, which I witnessed, was a muscular, sixty-pound pit bull dog who had been jogging/running with his athletic owner at 3:00 pm on a very hot and humid day. Humans can perspire and avoid hyperthermia much longer than can dogs who cannot perspire. Dogs must pant to cool themselves and on a humid day, this becomes much less effective, resulting in a critical body temperature rising very quickly. If a dog seems overheated, it is important to apply cool but not ice-cold water with towels or even emersion. Ice cold water can be counterproductive by causing vasoconstriction at the skin level, so the desired cooling effect is negated. Of course it is essential to seek immediate emergency care if hyperthermia is suspected.
A big “thank you” to the reader who raised the above-mentioned issue and I invite more questions for future issues of the Osceola Woman.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) welcome your questions about pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.