Teesta refuses to step out, Jojo has lost the spring in her step and Candy can’t take a few steps without returning to her water bowl for a sip.
The heatwave in Calcutta has turned pets as lethargic, uncomfortable and prone to illness as their human companions. Veterinarians warn that your golden retriever, Labrador or Alsatian is as much at risk of a heatstroke as someone out in the sun with the Celsius at 41.2 degrees.
“A pet should be bathed twice a week and sponged with a wet towel daily. Ice treatment on the stomach and head are also recommended,” said veterinarian and pet specialist Gautam Mukherjee.
Snub-nosed dogs such as pugs and dark-coloured breeds such as the Doberman are likely to suffer the most during a spell of hot weather, said Mumbai-based canine behaviour specialist Shirin Merchant.
Short-muzzled breeds like the pug, bulldog, Shar-Pei and Pekinese have narrow respiratory systems that cannot cope with extreme heat. The popular St. Bernard too has low tolerance for heat and humidity.
Designer Agnimitra Paul’s pug Maradona is having a tough time coping with the hottest April in Calcutta in a decade. “At home he is either in an AC room or in a cool place, so it’s not a problem. But his walk has become quite laboured. I give him a water bath every alternate day and stick to his light diet, complete with curd and cold milk,” the designer said.
Ranjana Chatterjee’s Alsatian has hardly stepped out since the heatwave started. “Snoopy is curled up under the bed most of the time. Even if he steps out, he returns to the room quickly for the AC!” said Ranjana, a resident of Tollygunge.
Many Calcuttans are rushing to veterinarians to seek advice on how to restore their pets’ appetite. The advice is usually to mix dry food with moist items. A dollop of ice cream or a bowl of cold milk could work as well.
To those planning to shear their thick-coated dog’s fur to prevent heat retention, experts warn that overdoing it could backfire. “Trim your dog’s hair if you have a cocker spaniel or any other long-haired breed, but don’t shear the fur,” Merchant said.
For all breeds of dogs, the first step towards helping them cope with the heat is an immediate change in their routine.
Calcutta police have tweaked the daily routine for Teesta, Candy and Jojo — the first two are golden retrievers and the third a Labrador — along with the 28 other members of the dog squad. They are being given ghol (curd mixed in water) and bel (wood apple) sherbet every day. Beef has been replaced by chicken on the menu and glucose is being mixed with the water the dogs drink. And the hour-long pool session at the Police Training School pool is something the dogs love.
“Extra care is a must when the weather is so oppressive. If a dog pants more then it normally does, it’s sense of smell diminishes and that is not what you would want of a police dog,” a handler said.
A dog’s body temperature is usually between 100 and 103 degree Fahrenheit but can rise if it is made to exert itself in the heat. “If body temperature rises close to 107 degrees, a dog will start panting more and might even pass out,” said veterinarian Mukherjee.
At the Police Training School, the temperature of each dog in the squad is being monitored thrice a day. “The morning outing has been rescheduled to 6.30-8am. No dog is taken out in the afternoon unless absolutely necessary,” a handler said.
Additional reporting by Chandreyee Ghose
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