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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Creature Comfort

As Hot Weather Continues, Owners Should Take Steps to Keep Animals Cool

July 14, 1999|MASSIE RITSCH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

How hot was it Tuesday?

It was so hot that llamas wore sunscreen and baboons ate Popsicles.

At America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, recently shorn Gee Whiz the llama and Casper the alpaca were sprayed with a mixture of fly repellent and sunscreen. And Zulu the baboon enjoyed a blue Popsicle.

Ice blocks and mist cooled many of the zoo's cages, but student Stacey Thompson said most of the school's animals could tolerate the 90-degree heat.

"We're not overly concerned," Thompson said at the zoo, which trains exotic animals. "But whenever there's a temperature change that comes along suddenly, it affects the animals as well as the people. We're all very hot."

Inland areas of Ventura County got into the mid-90s Tuesday--not a record, but uncomfortably close to it. And that was three to four degrees cooler than Monday.

At 97 degrees, Ojai was the hottest spot in the county Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures along the coast Tuesday hovered in the low 80s. Point Mugu was coolest, registering 77.

Thunderstorms in the back country of northeastern Ventura County prompted the National Weather Service to issue flash-flood warnings in the afternoon. On California 33, about 30 miles north of Ojai, flood waters made a portion of the road impassible and forced several people to abandon their vehicles.

The loud booms that storms can bring may be particularly frightening for dogs, said Tim Dewar, spokesman for the Humane Society of Ventura County. As with fireworks, frantic dogs will often run from home when they hear thunder, only to get lost or be hit by cars.

"When the clouds start building up, bring the dog inside," he said.

Storm or not, keeping Fido inside was a good idea Tuesday. If dogs can't be kept in, they at least need outdoor shelter.

"A doghouse under a tree is fabulous," Dewar said. "A doggy door is even better."

Wherever they are kept, animals of all sorts need fresh water. It should be situated so that they cannot knock it over, leaving the ground wet and them thirsty. People with retrievers and other water breeds might consider filling a wading pool so their dogs can swim and drink.

Most importantly, Dewar said, never leave an animal in a hot car, even with the windows down. The same goes for children, of course.

"Heat affects animals the same way it does humans," he said. "It can kill them if they're exposed too long."

At the society's shelter in Ojai, the usual outdoor exercise time was called off to spare the animals from the heat.

"Most of them are lying on the nice cool cement floor today," said Dewar, who protects his boxer's nose with sunscreen.

At the training zoo, even animals that should be used to heat were looking for relief.

"Most of our animals are born in captivity, so they've never experienced their natural habitat," Thompson said.

One-year-old lioness Savannah, for one, has never lived on a scorched African plain and particularly enjoys being squirted with a hose.

Today, temperatures should be about five degrees below Tuesday's. Coastal and inland areas will see mostly sunny skies with a few patchy, low clouds in the morning. Highs should range from the mid-70s at the beach to the low 90s inland. Humidity levels will begin dropping today and should continue to fall through Friday.

"It will really start to feel seasonable or even cooler than that Thursday and Friday," said Guy Pearson, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which supplies forecasts to The Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

When the Mercury Climbs. . .DO:

* Provide shaded shelter for animals kept outdoors. Better yet, keep them inside where it's cooler.

* Provide animals with plenty of water. Make sure they can't spill the water, leaving them thirsty.

* Consider using sunscreen on animals, particularly short-haired breeds. Check with a veterinarian for animal-safe sunscreen.

*

DON'T:

* Leave animals alone in a parked car. Temperatures in vehicles can reach 160 degrees.

* Allow automobile coolant to collect in parking lots and driveways. It tastes sweet to animals, but even drinking a small amount can be fatal.

Signs of heat stress in animals include:

* Heavy panting

* Glazed eyes

* Rapid pulse

* Dizziness

* Vomiting

* Deep red or purple tongue

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