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Heat can be a shock for new Nevada residents, but deadly for furry friends

AP Photo/John Locher

Jennifer Boushy, left, and Jennifer Rellinger, right, cool off their dogs in water at a dog park, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, in Las Vegas.

If you were outside over the weekend, you felt the beginnings of the summer to come. Very sunny. Very hot. Very dry.

Some like it hot. And for those who don’t, they have pools to swim in, air conditioning and iced drinks to stave off the heat.

It’s not the same for our furred, feathered and other-covered family pets.

Many people move to this desert from climates where it’s easier—the climate isn’t such an issue. The summer heat is not only a shock to new Nevada transplants, it can be deadly for family pets.

And they are family. With the birth rate half of what it was in the 1950s, more and more people see pets as family. 

The basic tips you should always follow: Get booties for your pup's paws while walking on hot surfaces. Provide regular water, avoid hot times of day and try to find shade. 

Shadi Ireifej is the chief medical officer of VetTriage.

We're starting to see triple-digit temperatures in Las Vegas. Some pet owners might be thinking about getting their furrier pets shaved to cool them down. Is that generally a good idea?

Ireifej: It's not the most practical idea. If you can, you can argue that it's certainly helpful to have less hair, but at the same time, they have their hair for a reason. And it's quite the endeavor for either a veterinary clinic or a groomer to shave the entire pet's body. Plus, that hair has to eventually grow back. And so clipping hair, too, you can have issues with abrasion to the skin and skin infections and what have you. So I prefer rather to take more practical means of preventing excessive heat exposure and trying to maximize cooling the pets as opposed to shaving their entire body.

What else can you do?

Ireifej: You have to recognize that every pet of course is different just like every person is. Pets are more adapted for heat if you have your Labrador retrievers, or German shepherds, these dogs are able to handle heat better than let's say ... a pug or a bulldog. So most most obvious answers are those that you would construct for yourself, as well as well try to stay in the shade.

Try to avoid direct sunlight has water around, things like that are ways to to help protect the pets. Some breeds just shouldn't be in the sun for extended periods of time. And some really live a more sedentary lifestyle at home. And others are very active and can handle the heat very well. So you have to know your pets what their limitations are, and be prepared to provide shade, water and rest when you're out there in the heat.

Hilarie Grey is the new CEO of The Animal Foundation.

In 2021, you returned 4,400 pets to owners fostered 2,400 pets, and spayed or neutered 10,000 animals. And before you became CEO, news reports said employees there were neglecting basic duties like answering emails, returning calls, and employees reported understaffing or low pay. Before we get into this other stuff, how is the situation now?

Grey: You know, things are going really, really well. I think the Animal Foundation had issues like a lot of places did during the pandemic, where, you know, things moved a little bit slower because people not coming out as much. We had to do adoptions by appointment, which meant more animals in the shelter waiting a little bit longer than normally. But we had some expert assistance from UC Davis ... when I came in, kind of looking at some of our practices. Since I've been here, towards the end of January, we've hired a new COO. And the team is really very dedicated to the health and safety of the animals, to a great customer service experience. 

What kind of different issues do you see at The Animal Foundation?

Grey: The heat obviously affects everyone, the staff and the animals. And really what's best for like our adoptable dogs, too, is they have outdoor and indoor access. So we're making sure that they always have shade, they always have water on both sides, whether they're inside or outside. 

Some of the enrichment we do has things like we freeze cones with peanut butter. And that's not only a great enrichment treat for them, but it also helps keep them cool. So we take a lot of extra precautions like that we have puppy pools, that we have the dogs playing and as part of their play groups and part of their enrichment, too. 

One of the new things this year is in our adoption bungalows, to we've put up some extra shade space thermometers to make sure we're always monitoring the temperature, a lot of fans and that helps pets and people. 

What should someone do if they see a pet suffering in the heat inside of a car?

Grey: I know calling law enforcement right away for some help with that. If you're in a situation where you can try to find the owner, like if it's in a shopping center or something like that. That's always the best thing.

I'm not super up to speed on what the law allows here. But really, for people that are pet owners, I know when In the winter, it's nice to be able to take your pet around on errands and things like that. But you never want to leave your pet alone and a car during the summer even for a short time. They warn you about it with kids. And the same is true of pets and they get hot really quickly.

If you see a dog in need,  call 911.

It's illegal to keep a pet in a hot car in Nevada, but it's also illegal for a citizen to break in unless it's absolutely the final resort. 

Hilarie Grey, CEO, The Animal Foundation;  Shadi Ireifej, chief medical officer, VetTriage

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.