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July 21, 2022

Pets can overheat in the summer heat; here's how to keep them safe

The Humane Society offers tips to protect your furry friends from the hot weather

The "dog days of summer" can be fun, with school out of session and trips to the beach, but when temperatures rise, so does the danger for humans and their furry friends.

During the summer months, pet insurance company Trupanion sees 333% more claims related to heatstroke in cats and dogs.

The hot temperatures, which are climbing toward triple digits, and high humidity pose huge risks for pets.

"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet," said Dr. Barry Kellogg, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals 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 levels – very quickly."

Fortunately, there are steps pet owners can take to ensure their beloved animals are safe and comfortable during the summer heat.

First, the Humane Society warns that pets should never be left in a parked car, regardless of whether the car is running and the air conditioner is on. On a warm day, the temperature inside a car can rapidly rise to well above the temperature outside, possibly causing organ damage to pets. People who see an animal trapped in a hot car are urged to notify nearby businesses or call local authorities. 

Here are five more tips from the Humane Society to keep pets safe in the heat:

• Limit exercise: On a hot day, pets should exercise at a lower intensity for less time, and stick to early morning or evening hours. Pet owners should make sure their pets avoid walking on hot asphalt to avoid burnt paws. 

• Shade and water: Any time a pet is outside, they should have ample shade and fresh water, which can be made colder with ice. Shade should be provided by trees or tarps, which do not obstruct air flow, unlike dog houses, which do not provide relief from the heat. Pet owners should not rely on fans to keep pets cool, because pets respond differently to heat than humans. Fans do not cool them as effectively.

• Cool pets inside and out: Easy-to-make "pupsicles" for dogs and ice water can help pets cool down. Many pet cooling items can be purchased online, such as a cooling body wrap, vest or mat. Pets also may enjoy a cooling soak in a pool or bath.

• Prepare for power outages: When a summer storm, and the possibility of a power outage, looms, be sure to create a disaster plan to keep pets safe from heatstroke or other emergencies.

• Know and watch for signs of heatstroke: It's important for pet owners to know the signs of heatstroke in pets. Signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, fever, dizziness, vomiting, lethargy, excessive thirst, discolored tongue, seizure and unconsciousness. Animals who are very old, very young, overweight or have heart or respiratory disease are more susceptible to heatstroke. Dog breeds with shorter muzzles, such as boxers, pugs and shih tzus, have more difficulty breathing in extreme heat.

If a pet is showing signs of heatstroke, owners are encouraged to move the animal into shade or air conditioning and apply ice packs or cold towels to its head, neck and chest. Cool, but not cold, water can be gently poured over the pet. The animal should drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. As soon as possible, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian.

The "dog days of summer" can be enjoyable for the whole family, including pets, as long as proper safety measures are taken.

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