According to the The National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of human fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses. Heat also kills pets, especially those kept outdoors during the summer and those left locked inside hot cars. What can pet owners do to avoid their pets being included in this statistic?
Foremost, become aware of the signs of dehydration, how to treat it, and its dangers. Water is essential to our pets. They depend on it to maintain appropriate health. Pet Health Center says water makes up about 80 percent of a dog’s body and serves as the basis for all biological processes. Dehydration can occur when a pet’s fluid levels drop dramatically.
Prevention is always the best practice. You can help your pet stay hydrated by ensuring he always has access to clean and fresh water. In addition, you should wash your pet’s bowls each day to prevent bacteria from forming on them, and monitor her water consumption. If your pet is more prone to dehydration, you might use a weighted water bowl so it doesn’t tip and spill over. All pets, especially in the summer or if they’re recovering from an illness, should have access to more than normal. Don’t forget to bring water for your pet when traveling.
Should you suspect dehydration, gently pull the skin up at the back of her neck. Although it may vary for senior pets and for pets that are underweight or overweight, if the skin does not fall back to its normal position within a few seconds, your pet may be dehydrated. Moreover, the longer it takes for your pet’s skin to return to normal, the more serious your pet’s condition. Other signs that you should take your pet to the vet include:
- Sunken, dull eyes
- Dry, sticky gums
- Loss of appetite
- Urinating too much or too little
- Shock (Advanced Stages)
Second, besides educating yourself about dehydration, avoid leaving your pet in the car during warm weather. The National Weather Service reports that countless numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia, “an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle”.
On a warm day, leaving a pet alone in a parked car can result in illness, irreparable damage to organs, and even death. The temperature inside a car can rise almost 20 degrees F in just 10 minutes and almost 30 degrees F in 20 minutes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in a car can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that’s 110 degrees inside your car!
For that reason, I used to hear that one should leave their windows slightly open if a pet is left alone inside. American Veterinarian Medical Association cites a second study found that the temperatures in a dark sedan as well as a light gray minivan parked on a hot, but partly cloudy day, exceeded 125oF within 20 minutes. It also noted that cracking the windows had little effect on the temperature rise inside the vehicle.
If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt heard of situations on the news involving a dog that’s been left alone in a parked car. How should we deal with the latter? If you see a dog that seems to be suffering, The Humane Society of the United States recommends: taking down the car’s make, model, and license-plate number; asking managers and/or security guards of nearby businesses to make an announcement to find the pet’s owner; call animal control or the local police and then wait for them to arrive. Just importantly, learn what local laws say about leaving pets in parked cars and spread the word about the dangers of heat and dehydration on pets. The Humane Society of the United States offers a free flyer that everyone can distribute about the subject: Hot Car Flyer
National Heat Awareness Day falls on May 24. Please share what you know to ensure that pets remain safe throughout the glory days of summer.