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Pet Heat Concerns Move to the Front Burner

Hot weather can be dangerous for your pets, whether they're birds, cats, dogs or another entirely. Make sure you have water and shade everywhere your pet may be during extreme heat.
If ever there was doubt about the danger of heat and pets, that uncertainty has probably evaporated for most pet owners over this scorching summer.

With the extreme heat of recent months, even indoor pet owners need to have some options in mind. Areas like Washington and Oregon, normally known for moderate year-round temperatures, have experienced heat more like Death Valley. Since many homes there are without air conditioning, indices above 100° are uncomfortable and even dangerous. Suddenly, that corner near the window may no longer be a great place for the bird cage, even the dog or cat.

Simple Solutions

Regardless of where you are, extreme heat can be unpleasant and literally life threatening for pets. One simple option is to move the pet (or their bed, even their food or water) to a cooler spot in the house. That could be a basement if one is available. The temperature may be 5 or even 10 degrees cooler. If a basement is not available, an interior room or one on the east or north side (away from afternoon sun) is another option. Fans can help you and your pets, as well.

Birds are especially tricky. Too much fan could be bad for some birds, although in some of the recent weather, a fan would be hard to overuse. In general, don’t have the fan too close to your bird, just close enough to ensure some air movement.

For birds, a better solution might be just water. A great idea might be a bath in the cage (a saucer or small bowl can suffice) and even a mister (a plant mister works well). This allows a little evaporative cooling that can be very helpful. Think of wild birds around a bird bath in hot weather.

Careful, Creative

Combining a bath and gentle fan might be your best plan in extreme heat. However, if you’re likely to be implementing a significant change, you may wish to stay nearby and observe your pet for any signs of distress, especially birds. Birds can be very sensitive to drafts and drastic changes of any kind, so make small changes, slowly and keep an eye out for any problems.

Other pets are less sensitive but have a cat or dog around an electrical fan and water should suggest the need for caution. The two don’t need to be together so put the fan on the other side of the room where it can’t easily be knocked over.

Some pets will need to be outside, at least for short periods. Doing this early in the day is the best plan. The earlier the better in really hot weather. Evening and night would be a second choice. Above all, avoid the hours between 10 a.m. and 4-5 p.m., generally the hottest part of the day and with the most intense sunlight.

Plan for Problems

Some pets aren’t too cooperative and may burst through an open door and disappear, at least temporarily. If you need to get to work or otherwise can’t wait for his or her return, make sure some water is out, ideally in a shady place. Even if you have no trees, the north side of your home should be shaded nearly the entire day so this would be a good place to start. Keeping a large bowl on hand for this purpose would be a good idea to help on a hectic morning.

Learning to “read” your pet’s hot weather reactions is a good idea. Cats and especially dogs will pant, as that is the only way they have to cool their fur covered bodies (unless there’s some place they can get in water, which is worth remembering). Birds may pant, but that’s generally a sign of heat stress. With their dry mouths, panting doesn’t cool them but, like cats and especially dogs, they will make use of a bath or other place with some standing water.

Consider the Unexpected

There is a lot of good advice readily available on pet health, even in extreme conditions. Things like not walking or running a dog on hot concrete or leaving any animal in the sun with no water are well covered. Some things, like remembering not to leave a pet in a locked car, may require something like a ribbon on your mirror or other memory trick.

All of this is important right now as our weather does its best to annoy us, even attack us. Just don’t forget your pets in this struggle!