While most of us are enjoying the lovely seasonal weather, warm spring and summer temperatures can be dangerous for our pets. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe and cool throughout the warmer months!
Practice basic summer safety
- Never, ever leave your pets in a parked car
Not even for a minute. Please, don’t do it. On a warm day, the temperature inside an automobile can quickly rise to dangerous, even lethal 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. At such temperatures your pet can easily suffer irreversible organ damage or die. Even if it feels only pleasantly warm outside to you, it isn’t worth the risk to your pet. Well-known animal advocate and veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward spent half an hour in a parked car with the windows cracked on a warm summer day to find out what it really feels like, and filmed the process.
- Keep an eye on the humidity.
According to Dr. Barry Kellogg, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, “It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet. 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.”
- Limit exercise on hot days
Use caution when exercising your pet, and adjust the intensity and duration of said exercise in accordance with the temperature. Just because your dog wants to come with you doesn’t mean they necessarily should – some animals will walk or run well past the point when they should do so. On very hot days, exercise should be limited to the early morning or evening hours, when it is cooler outside. Be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets (such as Boxers, Pugs and Bulldogs), who are prone to breathing difficulty in warmer weather. Asphalt paving gets very hot, and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from becoming dehydrated.
- Don’t rely on a fan
Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. For example, dogs sweat primarily through their feet. The simple fact is that 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. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. Please be aware that a doghouse will not provide relief from the heat, and in fact, will likely make it worse.
- Cool your pet inside and out
Whether your pets are outside or indoors, always provide plenty of fresh water. For a tasty cooling treat, try this recipe for easy DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs. (You can use peanut butter or another favorite food.)You can also keep your pet from overheating with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat. Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days.
Watch for signs of heatstroke
A dog’s temperature should never be allowed to rise over 104. Extreme indoor or outdoor temperatures can cause heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, excessive thirst, lethargy and/or dizziness, difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Dogs who are very young or very old are at increased risk for heat stroke, as are overweight animals. An animal who has not been properly conditioned to exercise is also at risk, as are animals with heart or respiratory disease. As mentioned above, breeds with shorter muzzles and narrow nostrils are also significantly predisposed to heat stroke.
How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke
Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply cool 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. You should also take any pet you suspect to be suffering from heat stroke immediately to a veterinarian.
Summer storms have been known to knock out power, including air condition. Think of the derecho that hit D.C. in June of 2012 – some neighborhoods had power outages lasting for days. To be on the safe side, we recommend that you create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.
Tips and tricks adapted from this article by the Humane Society.