Behind the Forecast: Protecting your pets in the summer heat

Listen to Science Behind the Forecast with Meteorologist Tawana Andrew every Friday on 89.3 WFPL at 7:45 a.m.
Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 10:12 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s summer! Highs in the 90s are just a way of life now. Louisville’s average high temperature in the summer is 87.5° July and August average high temperatures are 88°.

Hyperthermia, which occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle, can happen when temperatures are in the 70s, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

As we take steps to keep cool, we must keep our four-legged, furry friends safe from the heat too.

It's crucial to know the signs of overheating in pets; their bodies heat up much more quickly since they are closer to the ground. Keep an eye out for the following things, according to the ASPCA:

  • Increasing heart and respiratory rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mild weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse

Other symptoms include seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased body temperature over 104°.

Just as advised for humans, don’t leave your pet in a hot car. It can lead to heatstroke.

On an 80° day, temperatures inside a vehicle can soar to almost 100 degrees in about 10 minutes. On an 85°degree day, even with a car window slightly open, a car's temperature can soar to 120° in just 30 minutes. This kind of heat can lead to irreversible organ damage and death, especially if the dog's body temperature rises over 104°.

Cracking a window does not significantly slow down the heating inside a vehicle.

It’s important to note that pets do not respond to the extreme heat the way that humans do. Dogs sweat mainly through their feet, according to The Humane Society of the United States; this makes fans less effective for pets compared to humans. Even the heat expelled through their feet is minimal.

The ASPCA says animals with flat faces and short noses, like Pugs, Boxers, and Shih Tzus, are more likely to get heatstroke because they cannot pant as well as other breeds. Older, overweight, and pets suffering from lung or heart diseases need to be kept cool.

Humidity is a detriment to dogs as well. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body," Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association explained to the Humane Society of the United States. "If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly."

If your pet does get a heat stroke, the Humane Society recommends that cold towels or ice packs are applied to the head, chest, and neck. Cool water can also be run over them. Allow your pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Of course, contact or take them to a vet as soon as possible for medical care.

Pets can get dehydrated just as quickly as we can. Keep a clean, fresh bowl of water handy for your pet is it's humid or hot outside. Make sure your pet as ample amounts of shade.

Hot asphalt and concrete can easily burn a pet’s paw pads. Keep walks to a minimum during the hottest parts of the day; walk on grass if possible. Booties or paw wax are also good options to protect your dog while walking during the hot summer months. It’s recommended that pet owners test pavement temperatures by placing the back of their hand on the pavement. If you can’t keep your hand their for five seconds, then the pavement is too hot for your animal.

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