Cool, fresh air and a cold drink. It’s what we all seek out when temperatures start creeping up. But it’s especially important for our furry and feathered companions, who handle heat differently than us humans. With temperatures forecasted to reach the 80s and 90s beginning today and into next week, the Seattle Animal Shelter reminds pet owners to exercise good judgment and use common sense when it comes to protecting their pets from the summer heat.
As many homes in the Northwest aren’t equipped with air conditioning due to our normally moderate climate, people leave their windows wide open during warm weather. The fresh air is essential to you and your pets, but be aware of the enticement and danger an open, screenless window can pose for cats.
“Make sure your window screens are secure, especially on second floors and above,” says Seattle Animal Shelter Director Don Jordan. “Open, screenless windows are an invitation to tempt the old adage ‘curiosity killed the cat.’ They may be known for always landing on their feet, but those little paws are no match for the combination of hard ground and gravity when the fall begins six, or even two, stories up.”
Another potential killer is a hot car. Even on a 75-degree day, cars left in the sun can turn into lethal ovens, reaching fatal temperatures of 130 degrees or more within just a few minutes. And with the movement of the sun, cars originally left in the shade can soon be in direct sunlight.
“Each summer, we receive hundreds of calls about pets locked in cars on hot summer days,” says Jordan. “Even dogs left locked in cars in the shade with the windows cracked on hot days are at risk of brain damage or death. Dogs must cool themselves through panting and their systems can’t handle high temperatures.”
Jordan offers the following tips for protecting pets during hot weather:
- Never leave your animal chained or penned up directly in sunlight. Provide a shady area for retreat, such as a dog house, porch or shady tree, and always provide cool water.
- If you leave animals indoors, open the windows, keep a fan running, provide plenty of water, and if possible, leave them in a cool location.
- Never leave dogs or cats unattended in a closed, locked car. Animals do not perspire like humans; they cool themselves by panting and vinyl seats in vehicles get hot under animals’ feet and prevent them from perspiring through their paws.
- If you must travel with your pet, carry water. If a trip requires you leave your pet in the car at any point, think about saving that for another day. It’s not worth the risk.
- Avoid overexerting your animal in hot weather. Exercise is fine when taken in moderation, but obesity, old age, underlying disease and previous bouts of heat stroke can predispose an animal to the condition.
- For birds, take caution and place the bird’s cage away from direct sunlight during the intense heat of the afternoon. Provide water and fruits and vegetables with high moisture content.
Pet owners can be held criminally liable for committing cruelty to animals if a pet dies, or is found suffering from heat prostration. If you see an animal that may be in need of assistance, or if you have questions, contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at (206) 386-7387 (PETS).