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Ask a Vet: Heat circulating around pet is deadly

POSTED: June 22, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It is my conviction that convection is a danger to your dog, your cat, your grandma and ice cream.

Convection is the transference of heat via movement of warmed particles. Heat is merely the lost energy from rapid movement, so it’s sort of a measure of speed on a tiny scale.

The other two classic mechanisms of heat transfer are conduction (physically touching the hot object, like your cat stepping on a hot stove) and radiation (walk outside on a sunny day and you’ll notice it in the sky).

Both conduction and radiation are risks to pets as well, but convection is the big risk that comes with this time of year. It’s at work in the greenhouse effect, and it’s how pets in hot cars can die.

I have treated many direct thermal injuries during my career. Luckily, none of them has been life-threatening. And radiation poisoning is extremely rare, usually reserved for lightly colored animals and the risk of skin cancer.

But I have seen many pets die of convection. Even with the windows cracked, a car is a ridiculously effective convection oven. If the temperature outside is only in the 80s, the interior of a car can be in triple digits in less than 10 minutes.

Let me repeat. Eighty degrees, 10 minutes, higher than 100 degrees in the car.

And although your pooch or kitty may drink from the toilet or sniff strangers’ rear ends, on a cellular level, their bodies are exquisite machines that only work within a small temperature range. Outside of that range, the cells malfunction and then die. The blood can stop clotting or can go into uncontrolled clot formation. The kidneys can shut down. The heart muscle can die. The brain can swell and liquefy.

It’s gross, but hopefully the images help remind you. Expecting you’ll be back in three minutes only asks the universe to complicate your day. A delay of just a few minutes can be fatal.

So please, think of your pet. If your rocky road can’t take the heat, neither can your fuzzy buddy.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at mattsisk2003@yahoo.com.


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