Keep Those Pets Out of the Heat
Keeping your pet outside is neither kind to your pet nor your pocketbook.
While this heat dome may seem never-ending, most of us can find some way to cool off.
Not so for our pets. Dogs and cats are subject to the same problems as humans—overheating, dehydration and sunburn. As such, we need to watch them and realize when they need help.
In St. Louis County, it is illegal to for pets to be tethered outside if the temperature is 90˚F or above.
Rebecca Smail, program manager, vector control and veterinary services of the St. Louis County Department of Health, said, “Even if you leave water for your pets in the morning, by afternoon it could be knocked over, and it’s important to have water and food at all times when outside.
“When people think of animals being outside,” she said, “They think it’s OK, that the animal is used to it. They don’t realize that it’s like a human wearing a fur coat—intolerable.”
Smail said that on Thursday, when the temperature reached 103˚, the St. Louis Animal Shelter had gone to many homes and removed dogs that were tethered outside.
“When people call and cuss me out,” Smail said, “I tell them I’m sorry, but what you’re doing is against the law. When they say we’re being cruel to their animals, I tell them that the law they are breaking is under the cruelty to animals county ordinance.”
The shelter will give the dog back to the owner after a fine is paid.
“We give them a copy of the ordinance of the law they’re breaking,” Smail said. “We give them a ticket for cruelty to animals and make sure they understand we will be checking them.”
Dogs are especially vulnerable to overheating because they can only cool off by panting or through the pads of their feet. The shape of dogs' heads contributes to their tendency to overheat. Braciocephalic (pug-nose) dogs are more prone to heatstroke because their nasal passages are smaller, and it’s more difficult for them to circulate sufficient air for cooling.
Here are some tips to keep your pets safe during hot weather:
- Never leave your pet along in a vehicle, even on a mild day. A study by Stanford University showed that on a 72˚ day, regardless of whether or not the windows were cracked, a car's internal temperature climbed 90˚ in one minute and to 116˚ or more within one hour. Within a short time, a dog or cat can suffer nerve, liver or brain damage, heart problems or even death.
- Bring a gallon of cold water for pets when walking or exercising them.
- Keep water in a tip-proof bowl if pets are outside.
- Do not walk pets in excessively hot or humid weather, or go early in the morning or late evening. Keep walks short. Stay off asphalt since that can burn sensitive paw pads.
- Provide lots of shade and a ventilated dog house if your dog must stay outside, but still bring in dogs during hottest part of the day. Do not let cats outside.
- Shave dogs down to a one-inch length to prevent summer skin problems, but do not shave down to the skin or they could get sunburned. Heavy coated dogs, especially, need a good trim to prevent overheating. Brush cats often.
- Keep a special eye on overweight or older animals since they don’t have the stamina of younger ones.
- Do not put cats on a balcony where they might fall or not have access to shade. If they must be outside, provide ample shade and water in a tip-proof bowl and take safety precautions to prevent falls.
- Avoid walking dogs in an area that could have been sprayed with chemicals, including lawn maintenance. Make sure coolant or other car fluids are not on the garage floor. Animals are attracted by the sweet scent and just a sip could be fatal.
- Make sure your dog is on year-round heartworm medication and, at the first of the season, ask your veterinarian about a safe flea and tick preventative.
- Put sunscreen on noses and tips of ears of light-colored cats and dogs.
Signs of overheating are:
- Heavy panting
- Glazed eyes
- Rapid pulse
- Unsteadiness or vomiting
- A deep red or purple tongue
Should you observe any of these, move the animal to shade and apply cool water over the entire body to lower core temperature slowly. Give animal small drinks of cool water or ice cubes. Call your veterinarian as soon as possible.