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As a heat wave covers southern Arizona to the Florida coast, bringing triple-digit temperatures and extreme humidity to more than 55 million people—and their pets.
Keeping cool in hot weather is challenging for humans. What about our pets?
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Veterinary Association recommend taking the following steps to ensure your dog, cat or other pet is safe during hot weather.
Don’t walk your dog in the heat of midday. Dogs can struggle to keep cool in high temperatures and are vulnerable to overheating. This is because they can’t sweat and rely on panting to cool their body temperature. Flat-faced breeds such as English or French bulldogs and pugs are at even greater risk, as they have a short muzzle that can make breathing difficult. Stick to early morning or late evening walks.
Never leave a dog, or any animal, in a car, trailer, conservatory or shed on a hot or even warm day. Being locked in a car for just a few minutes can be fatal to a pet.
Don’t put hutches or cages in direct sunlight at any time of day. Rabbits and guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down.
A tarmac test. Place the palm of your hand on the ground for five seconds before taking a dog out for a walk. If it feels too hot for you, it’s too hot for a dog’s paws.
Make sure your pet has adequate shade. Provide extra shade to guinea pigs by covering the top of wire mesh runs with damp towels.
Give all pets constant access to fresh water. They can get dehydrated very quickly. You can even put ice cubes in their water bowl.
Provide a cool place to rest. This can include damp towels to lie on, although don’t place a damp towel over your dog as this can trap in heat.
Use sunscreen. Some breeds of cats and dogs, particularly those with lighter-colored or finer fur, may also benefit from sunscreens, especially on the ear tips, which are prone to sunburn.
The British Veterinary Association “recommends avoiding sunscreens with zinc oxide to avoid zinc toxicity. If pet-safe products are hard to find, hypoallergenic or baby human products may be suitable instead. It’s a good idea to consult a vet to make sure you are applying the right sunscreen correctly and in the right place,” Justine Shotton, the president of the British Veterinary Association, wrote on the association’s website.
Watch out for early signs of heatstroke. In dogs, these include heavy panting, drooling, restlessness, bright red or very pale gums, and lack of coordination. Signs of heatstroke in rabbits include drooling, salivating, lethargy, short and shallow breaths, red and warm ears, wet nose and seizures.
If you suspect heatstroke or any other heat-related condition, take your pet to a cool, well-ventilated place. Give it small amounts of cool (not ice-cold) water to drink, and pour room temperature water over it to cool it down. Seek immediate advice from your vet.
Check sheds, greenhouses and summerhouses before closing them up. Cats like cozy spots but they risk getting too hot or dehydrated if they get trapped.
Don’t allow unsupervised pets around a pool. Not every dog is a good swimmer, and many need to be trained around water. Dogs should also be rinsed off after swimming to remove salt or chlorine. Also, it’s safest to have pets wear flotation devices when on boats.
Groom your cat or dog regularly. Regular grooming in warmer weather can help brush away any dead or excess hair, leaving your cat or dog with a less thick coat, which will help them stay cool.
Stick to your dog’s regular diet. Fruits like watermelon and blueberries are OK as a one-off treat, the British Veterinary Association said in response to a question from CNN, but rinds could be a choking risk.
“We would strictly advise against sharing ice cream or other human foods on grounds of pet and human health. Obesity is currently one of the biggest health issues that vets see in practice. ”