Every year at this time, I see yet another pet sitting in a car outside the grocery store, without so much as an inch of open window to allow fresh air in. So I’ll keep on writing about the dangers of heat exhaustion annually, because somehow it may finally sink in.
There isn’t much wiggle room with the heat, as far as pets go. Prolonged exposure to temperatures only a few degrees higher than normal pet body temperature (100-102 degrees for dogs and cats), can be fatal to your pet.
So now’s an ideal time to brush up on your strategies for keeping your pet cool. You’ll probably think of some ways to apply these principles to yourself as well.
The temperature inside your car on a sunny day can rise to critically dangerous levels within 15-20 minutes. You may have to plan your trips or errands so that you don’t have to take your pet along with you, or at least so that your pet is not left alone in the car.
The best way to deal with the heat is to stay indoors, if you have air conditioning. Close the drapes or shades, and use a fan to circulate the air. As the air conditioner removes moisture from the air, it will feel cooler, even though the temperature may not have changed much.
Even without air conditioning, you can cool the air with fans, and avoid activities that cause heat, like baking food in the oven, or even leaving lights on when you’re not in the room.
Avoid areas which have lots of buildings, sidewalks and pavement, if you must take your pet outdoors. These structures can retain the heat longer and make it harder to stay cool.
Seek shady places to keep cool. This also applies to pets who are indoors; move pet cages and bird enclosures away from direct sunlight, especially when the sun is at its peak.
Rest, instead of playing during heat spells.
Bath your pet in cool water or run the sprinkler for it to play in briefly, if there is not a water use restriction in place.
Keep your pet’s water bowl filled with fresh, cool water. Some people like to put a few ice cubes in there too.
Trim your pet’s hair or have it groomed so that heat isn’t trapped beneath the fur.
If your pet displays symptoms of heat stroke, such as rapid breathing, nausea or vomiting, or exhaustion, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Provide cool, wet compresses to cool your pet’s body while you await instructions.
Dogs sweat by panting, so you’ll see many dogs with tongues hanging out during this heat spell. Cats, however, don’t have a convenient way to cool off, so you might consider keeping them indoors until it’s cooler. They will often stretch out on the bare floor because it cools the most body area possible.
My personal favorite and low-tech way to cool off is to soak my feet in a cool pan of water.
Getting a cat to do the same might result in a few scratches – so, proceed with caution.
But if you’re going shopping, even if only for a few items, please leave your pet at home.