We're fortunate to enjoy famously mild summers here in the Pacific Northwest. But we still have heat waves. When hot weather arrives, it's important to know how to keep your pet safe and happy.
Here are some important things to consider when the mercury climbs:
Animals in Distress
If you encounter an animal in immediate distress, act quickly. Provide a shady space and cool water. If practical, bring the animal inside to an air-conditioned or cool space. In a residential area, knock on doors to see if anyone recognizes the animal - they may be able to help you get the animal back home. In non-residential areas, contact local businesses or offices to find a cool and safe space for the animal and contact your local animal control agency.
In any instance, if an animal is in distress and you suspect heatstroke, take the animal to the nearest vet if possible.
Heatstroke in Pets
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke - even light activity can cause your pet to overheat.
Signs of heatstroke include: heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, collapse and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are: very old or very young, overweight and/or not conditioned to prolonged exercise, have heart or respiratory disease. Additionally, some breeds of dogs and cats (boxer, pug, shih tzu, Persian cats, and other breeds with short muzzles) will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
If you suspect heatstroke in your pet:
- Immediately move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
- Apply cool water-soaked towels to the head, neck, and chest. Offer cool water to drink.
- Avoid shock - never use ice or ice-cold water to cool down an overheated dog.
- Take your pet directly to a veterinarian.
Pets in Cars
On an 85° day, your car can heat up to over 120° in 20 minutes. Never leave your pet in the car on a hot day. Contrary to some assumptions, cracked windows and parking in the shade don't provide measurable relief. On a hot day, it's always safest to leave your pet at home.
If you see a pet in a hot car: Write down the details of the vehicle - make, model, and license plate number. Act quickly! Call 911 or your local Animal Control agency. If there are businesses nearby, ask them to announce to their patrons to help find the owner.
What's the Law? In Washington State, police, law enforcement, and animal control agencies are protected from civil liability, civilians are not. If you break into a car to save an animal, you could face legal or financial penalties for the damage to the vehicle. Also consider that a dog in a vehicle may not react well to the intrusion and you could be injured.
Leave Your Pet at Home
The best place for your pet on a hot day is at home. Make sure you have a cool, indoor space for your pet and set out extra water to keep them hydrated. If your home isn't cool enough for your pet, consider asking a friend or neighbor with air conditioning, make a reservation at your local doggie daycare, or contact your veterinarian for local cooling shelters in your area.
For temporary relief at home, make a cool treat for your pet! While they're not a substitute for a safe and cool place, freezing a mix of wet-food and canned pumpkin in ice-cube trays can make for a fun and cool treat for your pup! They're great for a post-walk snack or a cooling treat in the afternoon.
Staying Cool Outside
Be sure to closely monitor outside time and limit activities like running and playing to the morning or late-evening hours when it's cooler. Make sure to take water with you on walks and consider using a misting hose or kiddie-pools for pets who enjoy playing in water. Never leave your pets unattended outside.
It's best to provide a cool, indoor space for your outdoor pets during hot weather. If that's not possible, check on them often and make sure they have a shaded space and lots of cool water.
If you take your dog for a walk, do it early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperatures are lower. Take short walks and always carry water to keep your dog hydrated. When possible, walk your dog on grass or dirt and avoid pavement, sidewalks and even sand - the sun can quickly heat up these surfaces. Remember: if it's too hot for your bare hand or foot, it's too hot for your dog's feet.
Signs of burned pads can include: limping, licking or chewing pads and paws, discoloration of pads, blisters, redness or missing skin. If you see any of these signs, immediately flush the area gently with cool, clean water.
Caring for burned pads: Immediately contact your veterinarian if your pet's pads are damaged by a hot surface. Keep the dog from licking the wounds. For minor burns or blistering apply an antibacterial ointment and wrap the affected area with a loose bandage. Serious burns require immediate medical attention, take your dog to your local veterinarian or emergency pet hospital.