Dog days

A dog stands in the driveway of a home Tuesday on Northeast John's Place in Pendleton. Pet owners will need to make sure their outside animals have shade and plenty of water as temperatures approach the triple digits this week.<BR><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris</I>

During the sizzling hot days of summer, people often hang out near the air conditioning vent, sip iced tea or head for the pool. The family dog, however, doesn't always enjoy the same luxuries.

When temperatures soared to triple digits late last month, at least one dog paid the price. A three-year-old pit bull was found dead in his doghouse with a chain wrapped around his neck, unable to reach water.

According to police, the Sheridan family who owned the dog cooled off in a pool about 30 feet away as the pit bull overheated. Jeanette LouAnn Bell, 34, was arraigned for animal neglect last week.

Rhonda McDonald is still haunted by a dog in her Pendleton neighborhood that died of heat exposure in the summer of 2006. McDonald, who now lives in Portland, at the time lived in Pendleton's Grecian Heights with her husband Larry.

The couple noticed that Charlie, the neighbor's young Siberian husky, often had no water and was usually staked in full sun on a four-foot chain.

During July and early August, the mercury topped 90 degrees on 25 days. McDonald often walked over and covertly filled his water bowl. She complained to the police, the Pioneer Humane Society and the City of Pendleton. Later, after Charlie died, she testified against his owners in court.

"When first encountering Charlie in June, he appeared to be a healthy husky with beautiful blue-eyes and a bubbly, happy countenance despite his circumstances - a truly exceptional dog," she said. "By August, he had degenerated to an emaciated, hollow-eyed withdrawn shell of his former self."

In mid-August, Charlie had disappeared from the back yard and showed up at the Humane Society of Eastern Oregon in Hermiston. Mitch Powell, then shelter manager, was appalled at the dog's condition.

Charlie's coat appeared burnt from all the baking in the sun, she said, and he was thin and depressed.

"This dog absolutely had no more will to live," Powell said. "He just laid there. He wouldn't eat and drink - he was done."

Shelter workers reluctantly put the dog down, Powell said. Later, Powell testified against the owners who were found guilty of animal neglect.

These cases are extreme, to be sure. Yet, a dog's condition can quickly take a downward spiral if it is trapped under the sun's rays without water or shade.

Veterinarian Fiona Hillenbrand, of the Pendleton Veterinary Clinic, said keeping your dog from overheating is basic common sense. Access to shade and cool, clean water is essential, she said. The price for letting your dog overheat is high.

"It can affect every system in the body," Hillenbrand said.

Certain dogs have a tougher time beating the heat, she said, especially breeds with pushed-in noses (bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers), long-haired dogs and overweight animals.

Powell echoed Hillenbrand's admonition of abundant fresh water.

"That is the absolute," Powell said. "They can't make it without it."

She described the best-case outdoor scenario as a grassy area with plenty of access to shade. For extra coolness, water the grass, she said.

"Take the hose and spray it down for two minutes," she said. "You'd be amazed at the temperature difference."

Some dog owners go the extra mile, Powell said, and set jugs of frozen water in their dog's shelter. Another technique is to water down small pieces of carpet and freeze them at night for the dog to use the next day.

Some commercially-offered products include cooling jackets and bandanas that claim to lower a dog's temperature and beds filled with cool water.

Symptoms of heat stroke can include exaggerated panting, rapid heart rate, excess salivation, confusion, muscle tremors, seizures, listlessness and vomiting.

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