Fort Oglethorpe vet cautions pet owners about the heat

Dr. Joe Martin and his staff at Fort Oglethorpe Pet Wellness Center recommend pet owners always have water on hand with the rising temperatures. / Staff photo by Davis Lundy

It was 94 degrees outside Dr. Joe Martin's veterinarian practice in Fort Oglethorpe on May 29, the 10th straight day of temperatures in the 90s. The string of high heat for May would break with a high of 89 degrees the next day.

"It's too hot for May," said Martin, who opened Fort Oglethorpe Pet Wellness Center in January 2017. "If people have trouble adjusting to it, so is your pet."

Martin hopes the quick arrival of summer temperatures causes pet owners to consider the impact of heat on their pets, especially dogs who play or live outside.

There is no national clearinghouse for the number of household pets that die from heat stroke annually, but the number is in the hundreds, according to Martin believes the number is higher.

"We hear about dogs left in cars who die, because they end up on the news," said Martin, "but there are more that we never hear about. Not leaving dogs in cars [and] making sure they have water and shade are obvious, commonsense things that too many people ignore."

Martin said dogs eliminate heat primarily by panting but do release heat through their paw pads. The breed of dog is important when considering how much heat a dog can stand, with those with a shortened snout (known as brachycephalic) being more susceptible to rising temperatures, Martin explained. These breeds include English and French bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, pugs, shih tzus and Pekingese.

"Dogs with a flat nose or a thin nose don't move the air around like other dogs do, so their panting is just not as effective," he said. "The owners of these dogs need to be very aware of the heat."

Martin also cautioned what he called the "weekend warriors," athletic breeds such as collies or retrievers that find themselves chasing frisbees or balls for hours on a weekend when their owner is off work.

"If you have a dog that is bred and trained to work outside, that is one thing," said Martin, "but a lot of dogs who spend time in air conditioning and then go outside for hours in the heat just don't have the tolerance. Owners need to be smart and just back off when it's clear a dog has had enough. Overheating can cause a lot of problems. And always have some water with you."

Martin's practice was originally located inside the PetSmart on Gunbarrel Road, where he operated for 16 years before accepting the third offer from the corporate office to sell the practice. He had a strong base of customers from North Georgia among the 2,000 clients at the Gunbarrel location, he said, although now some of his Chattanooga customers do not want to cross the state line to visit his new location.

"I wasn't planning on building another practice, but that's what I am doing," said the 63-year-old Martin, whose business was the featured business of the week by the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce last week.

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