Animal services saw historic increase in heat-related illnesses, calls

While Portland reached a record temperature of over 110 degrees June 28, people gathered with their pets at Keller Fountain Park to take a dip and cool off.

An incredibly large number of animals throughout the Portland area sustained heat-related illnesses and dozens of local organizations received an uptick in calls from pet owners last weekend as record-breaking hot weather blazed through the Pacific Northwest.

DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital said for heat-related injuries and illnesses, it received 350 patients — dogs, cats, as well as other animals — June 25 through June 28. Of those patients, 37 were treated for heatstroke or heat exhaustion, while dozens had symptoms of heat-related illnesses —respiratory distress, dehydration, open-mouth breathing — a spokesperson told The Oregonian. About 64% of those patients were dogs.

“Definitely over the weekend heat was a major contributor to reasons people brought their pets to DoveLewis,” the spokesperson said.

Through DoveLewis’ wildlife program, which serves stray dogs, cats, and wildlife, such as birds, it had 53 patients brought to the organization by residents and first-responders during the four-day stretch. Of those, 39 were wildlife animals, which included 38 birds, the spokesperson said.

“We were seeing lots of people bringing in animals that they saw on the ground, especially younger birds,” DoveLewis said.

For perspective, DoveLewis said on a 2021 daily average it receives five stray or wild animals. The 53 during the 4-day stretch is dramatic.

“We had a wide range of how severely pets were affected by the heat,” said Dr. Shana O’Marra, DoveLewis’ chief medical officer. “Some had very mild symptoms; some needed intensive care in our ICU, and we had a few tragic cases with severe heatstroke that didn’t survive. We saw heat stress in many species, from small mammals to birds to cats and dogs.”

DoveLewis was unable to provide the total number of deaths.

The Audubon Society of Portland reported a record number of calls for birds in poor condition because of the weather.

The organization said it received more than 300 birds in four days — an all-time record, Bob Sallinger, director of conservation at Portland Audobon, told The Oregonian. Portland Audobon had 75 Cooper’s hawks, which is more Cooper’s hawks than they typically see in three years. Sallinger said he wasn’t sure why those birds in particular were hit so hard.

“It has been pretty unreal,” Sallinger said via email. “We had huge numbers of birds coming in — mostly young birds that left their nests early before they could fly. They do this under normal circumstances as well but the heat really exacerbated things.”

An increase in phone calls from pet owners and members of the community to organizations was prevalent as well.

Washington County Animal Services said it received seven calls for dogs left in cars over the hot weekend. It received 14 calls from people for animals left in the heat in other locations, such as residential backyards. Of those, 10 were for dogs in backyards. The other remaining calls they received were for horses, a rabbit, and a bird.

“Those calls were a little out of the ordinary. We don’t normally get calls for heat in those situations,” animal services manager Randy Covey said.

Covey said none of those calls resulted in any serious concerns.

“We found people to be cooperative and understanding,” Covey said.

The Oregon Humane Society said it received a “slight uptick” in calls from the public throughout the heat wave to its tip hotline.

All organizations stressed the importance of preparation when temperatures in Portland soar to historic highs the way they did last weekend to keep pets and other animals safe.

“Be prepared, know the warning signs and just try to get your animal out of the heat if possible,” Laura Klink, public information manager of the Oregon Humane Society told The Oregonian. “If you see an animal in distress, calling 911 depending on the situation, or calling your local animal services agency is the best way to go.”

DoveLewis provides this helpful list of tips as protective measures for owners and people, such as giving pets extra water, not leaving animals in cars, knowing heatstroke signs, and being cautious with dogs that have shorter noses.

“Just like we should all have evacuation plans for our pets in case of emergency, we should all have an emergency plan to cope with extreme heat for our pets,” O’Marra said.

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