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Animal Tales: How to protect pets in hot weather

Jeff Grubel of Abbotsford, B.C., pours water from a bottle for 6-year-old Amos, a yellow Labrador Retriever, at the 22nd annual Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association dog show Aug. 3, 2012, at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden.
Jeff Grubel of Abbotsford, B.C., pours water from a bottle for 6-year-old Amos, a yellow Labrador Retriever, at the 22nd annual Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association dog show Aug. 3, 2012, at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden. The Bellingham Herald

When the weather heats up, so do the phone calls to our animal control department from concerned citizens reporting dogs and other animals left inside hot cars.

It may be tempting to take your pet with you in the car when you travel or do errands. But during the summer months, the inside of your car can reach dangerously high temperatures in just a matter of minutes — even with the windows down and parked in the shade! This can mean real trouble for your pet. Dogs and cats can only sweat from the nose and pads of their feet. Panting is their main way of dispelling heat. Pets who are left inside cars, even briefly, can quickly suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and even death.

Whatcom Humane Society animal control officers responding to calls about animals left inside vehicles will immediately evaluate the situation and when possible take the temperature inside the vehicle. If it is determined that the animal is in immediate danger, our officers will take whatever action is warranted and necessary to save the animal’s life. Pet owners placing their animals in this type of danger can face multiple charges including unsafe transport and second-degree animal cruelty.

Being left inside a hot vehicle is not the only danger that animals face during the summer. The following are a few reminders to help keep your pets safe and healthy during the summertime months:

▪  Provide plenty of cool water and shade for your companion animals and livestock. Keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pets’ paws.

▪  Pets and livestock can get sunburned too and your pet may require sunscreen on his or her nose and ear tips. White/light colored animals are particularly vulnerable. Many companies make animal-specific sunscreen products. Check with your local pet supply store.

▪  Fleas and ticks are an increased summertime threat. Use only flea and tick treatment recommended by your veterinarian. Some over-the-counter flea and tick products can be toxic, even when used according to instructions.

▪  Be aware of signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in your pet. These signs could include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue. If your pet does become overheated, you need to immediately lower his/her body temperature. Move your pet into a cool, shady area and apply cool (not cold) water over his body. Apply cool, damp towels or ice packs wrapped in towels to your pet’s head, neck, armpits, groin and foot pads. Let your pets drink small amounts of cool water. Most importantly, get your pet to a veterinarian for treatment immediately.

If you see an animal in need this summer, please contact Whatcom Humane Society for assistance. Our animal control department can be reached at 360-733-2080, ext. 3017.

This column originally published in June 2014. Animal Tales is a regular column written by Laura Clark, executive director of the Whatcom Humane Society. The society provides care and services to homeless, unwanted, orphaned and abused domestic and native wild animals in need. Have a question to ask? Email questions for this column to director@whatcomhumane.org. For information on the society, go to whatcomhumane.org.

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