As much of the Northeast experiences abnormally high temperatures and humidity, pet owners should take steps to protect their animal companions. Heat stroke can be fatal.
“Extreme heat and humidity can be a threat to people and pets,” said KC Theisen, pet care issues director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We urge pet owners to ensure their pets are cool and comfortable on these dangerously hot days.”
Pet experts offer the following tips:
- Never leave your pets in a parked car, not even with the car running and the air-conditioning on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. Humidity levels of just 50 percent create a heat index of 124 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. An animal left in a hot car can sustain brain damage or even die in just 15 minutes. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police, and ask the nearby businesses to make an announcement for the owner to return to the car.
- Shade and water are essential. Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water; add ice to the water if possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct the air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat — in fact, it can make it worse. Dogs cannot cool themselves by sweating like humans. A dog cools himself by panting; however, when the temperature rises, this is not enough. Always make fresh water available and provide a shaded area in the yard.
- A sprinkler or kiddie pool filled with water is a great way to offer relief from the heat.
- Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with short-nosed pets who, because of their short noses, typically have difficulty breathing. Never ride a bike or jog with your pet in tow. They cannot tell you when they might need to slow down or rest. Also, take some water in a container on your outings to avoid dehydration.
- Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pets’ paws, so walk them on the grass if possible.
- It is not a good idea to shave your pet. Fur protects them from sunburn and helps regulate their body temperature in both hot and cold weather. Regular brushing is the best way to help your pet lose his winter coat. Work against the grain and close to the skin to catch as much of the ready-to-fall fur as possible.
Summer is a great time to be outdoors with your pet, but it can also put your pet in jeopardy for a number of health risks,” said Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to helping animals in need. “Even fit, athletic dogs can suffer heat-related illnesses during the hottest days of summer.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals’ Poison Control Center, July and August are the most dangerous months for companion animals. During this period, the center handles the highest volume of cases every year -– many of which are related to heat stroke.
Dogs are much more susceptible to heat stroke than humans are. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 degrees F and 102.5 degrees F. Once their temperature gets above 105 degrees F, damage to the body’s cellular system and organs starts to occur and may become irreversible, often leading to death.
Recognize the signs of heatstroke. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Some signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep-red or purple tongue and unconsciousness.
If you fear your pet may be suffering heatstroke, following these tips could save his or her life:
- Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
- Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her.
- Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
For more tips about caring for your pets during a heat wave, visit the following websites:
For an excellent article on what to do if you see an animal in a hot car, check out Andrew Puccetti’s blog at andrewpuccetti.com. Although only 15 years old, Andrew is the founder of a nonprofit organization, Live Life Humaneand has served on youth advisory boards for several animal-related organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States.
Also, check out the infographic below, from www.theuncommondog.com.