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How to keep your pets safe during a heat wave

dog with tongue out laying in grass on a sunny day
Credit: Dogdorable

Summer can be a challenging time for pets in general, but when a heat wave hits, it can be brutal-even deadly.

Although much of the country relies on ac, many people in the northwest don't have it because temperatures were never truly that high for very long- until more recently. There used to be one week where we hit 100, but it was usually fleeting.

However, with the highs reaching almost 115 yesterday and staying above 100 degrees for a few days, sadly we have already heard of 2 separate instances where dogs died from the heat- partially because their families didn't know how to keep them safe.

There are a few things you can do to help.

It is most important that you limit your pet's activity. Do not expect that your pets will self-regulate at all. This can be especially true for young dogs who want to run and play- they will not just know when to stop!

While this may seem so obvious, people get heat stroke too, so even when we can make better decisions as humans sometimes we still get sick from overexposure, so it can definitely happen to your pet.

If they are trying to run and play either let them back in the house, crate them (if the crate and room it's in has adequate circulation/ ventilation) or keep them on a leash with you, so they are not free to move about the cabin. You need to be overly cautious to ensure they don't overexert themselves even a bit- or the results can be devastating.

If you are going to be outside, make sure there is plenty of shade. Do not keep pets in an enclosed tent or anything that is designed to create shade, but restricts airflow.

If you are going to take walks or runs, only do it in the early morning or late evening hours if the temps are below 80 degrees, otherwise it will just be too hot.

The pavement alone can be too hot and can burn a dog's feet, so if you can't put your hand on the ground for 5 seconds without it hurting you, it's too hot for your dog.

ALWAYS HAVE WATER AVAILABLE. Make sure the water is changed frequently as it will get hot quickly. Freezing water in bowls can be a great way to make it last longer and your pets will likely enjoy the task of constant licking to ease the boredom and keep them cool.

You can also make "pupsicles". Plain water will work just fine but you can get creative too. Whether using a large dog bowl, mixing bowl or even a bundt cake pan, add some of your dog's favorite chew toys, jerky treats (or other treats that are not baked and will stay together when soaked) and even some low sodium broth to liven up the experience.

You can leave in the bowl or pop the frozen concoction out and put it on a tray so your pets can really get at it from all angles. Dogs especially love finding their favorite goodies inside the ice!

Cooling mats can be a great way to offer your pets some relief. They are either gel, or can be filled with water and refrigerated to keep your pet cool when the mercury is rising. The Cool Pet Pad is one we are pretty familiar with and feel are good quality so we take them to outdoor events when we bring animals.

If you don't have a cooling mat, filling a gallon ziploc bag with water and freezing or refrigerating it flat can be a trusty hack. Be sure to place a towel or something between your pet's fur and anything frozen so they don't get a cold burn- and they will be more likely to use it. Refrigerated ones will likely need to be traded out more often than frozen, so make a few.

If you have a granite or marble cutting board, or even some spare flooring tiles can work as well. Just put them in the fridge and they will act like a heat sink, offering some cooling effects- which I imagine could be more attractive to a cat or other small animal as well than something frozen. Cats do like their environment about 20 degrees hotter than average room temperature, so they will seek something cooler when needed, but likely will not deal with anything wet or frozen. Please note to tape up any sharp edges of a raw piece of tile so your pet doesn't get cut.

There are also cooling vests and bandanas. One of my rescue friends swears by the cooling vests for her pugs. There are a variety of types, but in short, you soak them in water and then put it on your pup.

There are a variety of brands and styles- most of which are likely sold out right now- but check eBay and you might be able to score there!

If you have a pool, letting your pets take a dip (supervised only) can be a good idea- or using a hose to cool them down. Kiddie pools make great dog splash pools and you won't mind as much if they get it dirty or have an accident!

If you don't have a yard, you can also just give your pets a cool bath frequently. This will likely work better for a dog than a cat, but any animal can benefit from a cool dip.

Be sure to cool their ears as well (though don't let water in) since the blood is so close to the surface in ears it can help cool from the inside out. Ice cubes rubbed on ears or an ice pack draped over their head can be enjoyable for some animals- .

As long as they are damp the evaporation will offer cooling effects but once they are dry, they will start heating up again, so don't be afraid to repeat often to keep them somewhat soggy.

Having fans around can never be underestimated, as well as keeping blinds closed and trying to focus on keeping just one room of your place cool.

When it's heating up outside, it is absolutely critical to go out of your way to ensure your pet's are well managed and have the right tools, equipment, environment and people there to help keep them cool!


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