Safety first: It's Arizona and the heat is on!
Each year it seems like the summer gets here sooner, and the heat is worse than ever...well at least to me! Sadly every year despite all the warnings to the contrary, there are still folks out there that do not seem to understand just how hot a parked cars' interior can become...nor how quickly. Even if the outside temperature is only 75 degrees, the inside of the car can easily reach 40 degrees higher! That's 115 degrees with no air flow, cracking the windows does little to affect the inside temperature.
When an animal is left in a car, cooling mechanisms kick in, such as panting, drooling. Next the blood vessels dilate to help get the blood to the surface to be cooled. So what that in turn affects are the following: the heart works harder to supply blood to the dilated vessels, the blood starts to pool in organs and the blood pressure starts to drop. After a short period of time the organs start to become damaged: Kidney cells suffer thermal damage, small blood clots form, causing more kidney damage, the cells lining the intestine and stomach suffer thermal damage leading to severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting, liver cells die due to severe thermal damage and tiny blood clots form in the brain causing the brain to swell. After the body temperature reaches 109 degrees there is irreversible brain damage, seizures, coma and death.
Obviously the best treatment is to avoid the whole situation in the first place, however, there are times when accidents arise...the cat that gets into the parked car and is discovered later. So what do we need to be aware of to treat this deadly process? First and foremost, the actual body temperature of the animal when found will help to determine the treatment. For example, those animals that are alert and responsive and have a temperature of 104 or less may be able to be treated with cool clothes and a fan. NEVER submerge an animal in ice water as a means to bring the temperature to a normal level, all this does is constrict the outermost blood vessels and actually pushes the heat into the internal organs. It can and will make the animal worse. Any animal with a temperature of over 104 is in need of intravenous fluids to bring down the temperature from 'the inside out'. Horse owners know the 'rules' of washing down their mount after a long ride, starting with the legs and NOT the belly for the same reason.
Many people have asked me about a home without air conditioning, and that actually is a difficult question. For example, is the house well insulated? Is it surrounded by trees that shade it? Are there windows that can be opened for the breeze? Every case is different as is every pet. The best way to determine if a home is too hot is to watch the pets. If they are sluggish, panting, and seem uncomfortable then the temperature is not ideal. I had one veterinarian suggest that owners should wear sweat suits, heavy coats and multiple layers of socks then move about in the area. If they became too hot after a few hours, chances are it is too hot for the pets with built in fur coats.
Birds have similar responses to heat but it looks different. For example birds do pant, but when overheated their feathers will be held tightly to their bodies and the wings held out a bit from the shoulders. These creatures also are not immune to becoming heatstroke victims in an enclosed car.
Speaking of birds, many ask me what the best starter bird to own is, and truthfully to give a broader understanding of the species and specific needs, sometimes the backyard chicken makes for the best selection. Yes, pigeons and other passerines are also great for the novice bird owner that wants to be sure this is the right fit for them before investing in the thousand dollar parrot.
This year I have been gifted several of these sturdy feathered creatures, and I again marvel at their personalities, inquisitiveness and actions. Two of these were adults, two were baby chicks found loose in a neighborhood...definitely not a wild bird. Their need for a varied diet of crumbles, insects, greens and sometimes seed brings to mind all those poor parrot type birds that get seed only-NOT a complete diet by any means. Also, their need for being outside in the sunshine and air remind us that their parrot counterparts require this too. Their inquisitiveness shows why parrots need toys and other cage furniture to pull apart or play. The fact that the adults that are laying eggs need a different diet than the rapidly growing babies reminds us that the male parrot versus the egg laying female have different nutritional needs. It sounds very simple, yet it is something that is still overlooked by many. Again, this is my personal opinion after nearly thirty years of being around birds and seeing all the different diseases or ills that the avian species can experience, besides, the adult chickens that are laying eggs for us, are also doing a fine job of keeping the bug population in check! Lastly, as a comparison, the bite from a large parrot is unquestionably painful, potentially damaging, chickens on the other hand are less apt to cause any injury.
If you have any questions regarding heatstroke, birds or anything else that comes to mind, feel free to give us a call at 928-284-2840, we would love to help!