HAMBURG ó If you think this summerís high temperatures are hard to take, imagine what it must feel like covered in fur. Most pet owners love their furry friends, but many are also blissfully ignorant of the effects it can have on them, or they donít stop to think about it. Every year, we read tragic stories about pets that die of heatstroke from being left in a hot car, dehydration from being tied outside without water all day or from their humansí ignoring the warning signs. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your pet safe and cool, even when the mercury rises.
First, never, ever, ever leave your pet in the car, even with the air conditioning running. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car can rise to 102 degrees within 10 minutes, according to the Humane Society. Within 30 minutes, it can spike to 120 degrees. Think itís cool enough? Donít be fooled. Even if itís just 72 degrees, the temperature inside the car can reach 116, within an hour. Even rolling down the window has little effect on the temperature inside the car. Think of what happens when you put an ant under a magnifying glass, and imagine Fido in the same situation; thatís what itís like to be inside a hot car.
While we cannot officially condone breaking someone elseís car window to save a pet, there are ways to help. Take down the make, model and license plate number and bring it to the business in which the car is parked. Ask the manager to make an announcement over the loudspeaker, that the owner should return for their pet. If the car is not near a business or the owner cannot be found, call the non-emergency number for the local police station or the local Society for the Protection of Animals, and wait by the car for the officials or the owner to arrive.
While humans can feel sticky when the humidity gets high, pets can also feel those effects. ďItís important to remember that itís not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet,Ē said Dr. Barry Kellogg, veterinarian of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. ďAnimals 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 levelsóvery quickly.Ē
If you suspect your pet is getting too hot, take its temperature. A dogís temperature should not go above 104 degrees. If it does, act fast. Because dogs pant and release moisture through their feet, fans do little to cool off a pet. If your pet is unusually lethargic, panting heavily, has glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of coordination, profuse drooling, vomiting or is exhibiting signs of seizure or dizziness, move the pet into a cooler or air conditioned area immediately, the Humane Society recommended. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the petís head, neck and chest and run cool water over your pet. Let him or her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes and take your pet to the veterinarian, as soon as possible.
Some pets are more susceptible to the heat than others, including those who are very old, very young, overweight or not used to exercise. Some breeds of dogs, like boxers, pugs, shih tzus or other breeds with short muzzles have a harder time breathing in extreme heat. If your dog or cat has a short nose or is part of those categories, keep an extra-sharp eye out, during summer heat waves.
During the summer, heat waves can cause heat storms, including thunder and lightning that may knock out power. In addition to stocking candles and fresh water for humans, make sure you have a disaster plan for your pet, as well. Make sure your pets are properly identified, including indoor cats and dogs. Find a safe place to stay ahead of time, if possible, including a list of pet-friendly hotels and shelters, if you need to evacuate in a hurry. Some spots you may look for local establishments that allow pets are www.bringfido.com, dogfriendly.com, petswelcome.com
Also make sure your pet can be cared for, should emergency strike when you are not home. Try to make arrangements for friends, family or neighbors to pick up your dog, cat or small animal in a hurry, and discuss disaster plans with pet-sitters or services, in advance. If you lose power and have to leave home, donít forget to take your pet. Even in an hour or two, pets can be susceptible to heatstroke and if you are not there to keep an eye on them, they can get into a hazardous situation very quickly. Also, do not underestimate your petsí potential to become disoriented, especially if your power goes out unexpectedly. Just like humans can feel lost in a darkened house, pets can trip or run into furniture, if the lights go out. Make sure you know where your pet is or do not leave them alone, in the event of an unexpected outage.
Finally, many pets spend more time outside during the summer, and that means a higher chance of an encounter with a rabid or poisonous animal. The signs of a rabies infection include irritability, excessive movement or agitation, confusion, aggressiveness, change in bark, a dropped jaw, fear of water, muscle spasms and frothy saliva. If you think your pet may have contracted rabies, call your vet immediately. If it is safe to do so, cage your dog and transport it to the vet to be quarantined. If you feel that you may be at risk of being bitten or scratched, call the local animal control to quarantine your pet for you. If you think your pet may have ingested something poisonous, or shows signs of being poisoned, call the local poison control center. In the Western New York region, the control center can be reached at 1-800-888-7655. Keep that number with other emergency contacts, in the event your pet ingests something it shouldnít.
The summer is a great time for fun in the sun, but make sure your pet is having as much fun as you are. For more information, visit www.humanesociety.org.