July 30, 2012
Keep Pets Safe in the Heat
How, where to cool animals down when temps soar
In the next few days, much of the central U.S. will suffer heat indexes as high as 110 degrees. This is just the latest in what's already been a paticularly cruel summer.
Record high temperatures and catastrophic storms have already scorched and pummeled sections of the U.S. And some areas have been hit with double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results.
You can keep yourself and your pets safe and cool by following our tips for surviving a heat wave.
Follow summer safety basics
Never leave your pets in a parked car.
Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police. Spread the word about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars by printing out our Hot Car flyer (PDF) to post in public places and share with your friends, family, and coworkers.
Watch the humidity.
"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet," says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly."
Taking a dog’s temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Their temperature should not be allowed to get over 104 degrees, If it does, immediate steps need to be taken.
Don't rely on a fan.
Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
Provide ample shade and water.
Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.
Limit exercise on hot days.
Take care when exercising your pet. 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 pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets who, because of their short noses, typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.
Look for signs of heatstroke
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short, smushed muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
What to do if you think your pet is suffering from heatstroke:
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. Take her directly to a veterinarian.
If you're in an affected area and have animal companions, there are critical things you can do to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.
If you leave when the power goes out, take pets with you.
If you're forced to leave your home because you've lost electricity, don’t leave your pets behind. Even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat, whether outdoors in a yard or inside an apartment, mobile home, or house, can be dangerous for an animal. If you need to find a cool place to stay, contact your local government emergency management office for pet-friendly shelter information, or contact pet-friendly hotels and motels outside the affected areas.
Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species. Inquire if the "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency.
Find a pet-friendly hotel:
If you can't find a hotel or shelter, check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.
Some boarding facilities and veterinary offices might be able to shelter animals in emergencies. Your local animal shelter will probably won't have room to board your pets during this heat emergency, but they may be able to recommend alternate facilities.
If you stay, keep your pets cool.
If your power's out, and you decide to ride out the heat with your pets at home, keep windows and doors open for air ventilation, but cover them with shades or sheets to keep the sunlight out. Make sure you and your pets drink as much water as possible. Pets outdoors must have access to shade—if you don’t have tree shade, hang a tarp or sheet to create some. Don't put your pet in a dog house—it makes the heat worse.
Whip up a batch of quick and easy DIY peanut-butter popsicles for dogs (you can use peanut-butter or another favorite food).
Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with the Keep Cool Mat, body wrap, or vest. Soak in cool water and they'll stay dry but cool for up to three days. Find these, along with shade-giving and hydrating products to keep dogs safe and cool, at Humane Domain.