The summer months can be uncomfortable, even dangerous, not only for people but also for pets.
It’s difficult enough to simply cope with rising temperatures, let alone thick humidity, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with the double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results.
Here are some tips to keep your pets safe and cool during the dog days of summer.
Never leave your pets in a parked car
Don’t leave a pet in a parked car for even a minute — not even with the car running and the 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 can reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.
Watch the humidity
It’s important to remember 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 bodies. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperatures will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly.
Taking a dog’s temperature will quickly tell you whether there is a serious problem. Dogs’ temperatures should not be allowed to go over 104 degrees.
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, as well as short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt 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. Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet. 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 they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to the 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 the heat worse.
Cool your pet indoors and outdoors
Keep your pet from overheating indoors or outdoors with a cooling body wrap, vest or mat, such as the Keep Cool Mat. Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days. If your dog doesn’t find baths stressful, see if they enjoy a cooling soak.
Whip up a batch of quick and easy peanut-butter “pup-sicles” for dogs. And always provide water, whether your pets are indoors or outdoors.
•One cup peanut butter, preferably unsalted and unsweetened (Check your peanut butter’s label to make sure the product doesn’t contain any kind of xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.)
•Half of a ripe banana, mashed
•Water, as needed
•In a small mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter with a little water or half a mashed banana. (The water and half banana aren’t essential, but they help with freezing consistency.)
•Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
•Spoon the mixture onto the tray just as you would cookie dough. Freeze the tray for several hours or overnight. Store them in a bag or container in the freezer.
Watch 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, such as boxers, pugs, Shih Tzus and other dogs (and cats) with short muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke
Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.
Prepare for power outages
Before a summer storm takes out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.