Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat Hazard and Animals

Sure, the thermometer outside reads 96 degrees Fahrenheit and the weatherman tells us it feel likes 113 degrees.  You walk to the mailbox and back and your drenched from sweat.  You make yourself a tall, cold glass of lemonade to combat the swelter.  But how often do you think about the animals outside - be them pets, wild creatures, farm animals, or those housed in shelters or pounds?

I'll admit, I do think a lot about the heat with 2 black cats as they love the sun and heat on the screened in porch but don't know when to call it quits.  So I lug them in, occassionally to mad growls, and plop them down by the water bowl and inform them, "It's too hot to be out any longer... so enjoy some fresh water."  Occasionally, I'm forgiven quickly and other times - well - there have been some close calls at the top of the stairs.

Oh, It's Hot Outside-

Animals like humans are susceptible to heat and can experience heat exhaustion and heat related fatalities.  They don't have the luxury of dropping the A/C another degree or two to make things comfortable.  They can't just turn on the water and get an ice cold drink when they want.  They can't dress for the heat.  Their coping mechanism for heat are what nature gave them - panting, sweating (if they can), avoiding the sun, and drinking some liquid.

A lot of the steps we apply to ourselves should be considered for our furry friends.
  • Avoid the hottest part of the day - noon to 3pm.  
  • Keep plenty of fresh water available and check frequently to make sure no bird droppings, insect larvae or bacteria is present.  
  • Provide shade - who wants to spend all day in the sun with no escape - put up a tarp, old sheet, or relocate to a shaded portion of yard.  
  • Consider introducing ice cubes or frozen wet towels or toys for outdoor play. 
  • Install fans to keep the air moving - there are some new and inexpensive solar fans for attics and roofs that can be adapted for pet houses, bunny hutches, and other structures.  
  • Check on animals frequently - they can develop sunburns, heat exhaustion, or heat illnesses quickly especially if they are already diagnosed with an illness or condition.

 Not Just Dazed and Confused...

Some signs of heatstroke in animals to watch for include: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, and unconsciousness. If the animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, take steps immediately to gradually lower her body temperature and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Here are some suggested tips that could save your pet's life if you notice any symptoms:
  • Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Apply ice packs or cold towels to his or her head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over him or her.
  • Let him or her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
  • Take him or her directly to a veterinarian -as there can be serious side effect to heat crisis.

 More great information on helping animals in the heat, visit the Placer County California blog, Heat Stress in Pets and Livestock.

A Forgotten Summer Hazard
Now, another caution to the heat hazards is radiator overflow.  This time of year, cars overheat and the radiators can boil over leaving a puddle of radiator fluid behind.  Desperate animals looking for water might find this puddle and ingest it.  Make every effort to clean up boil-overs no matter where they happen.  Kitty-litter or oatmeal, a plastic bag, and cardboard to scoop up the absorbed overflow and dispose of it properly could save an animal from a very brutal and painful death from anti-freeze poisoning.

Remember Your Feather Friends-

Make sure birdbaths are clean and changed frequently.  The birds will most likely bath more frequently and splash more water out during the hotter days - so keep an eye on water levels.

Have a few planter saucers/bottoms setting around- why not make a few informal birdbaths about the yard?   Choose a location near shrubs but where birds would fill comfortable lighting for a quick splash and sip.

If you like to offer a little treat- chill or freeze melons pieces, berries, or even bird seed in water and set them out in trays for the birds to enjoy.

You're Not the Only One Getting Sunburned-

If you can't walk on the pavement - it probably hurting your furry friend to do the same.  Watch paws, noses, ears, scalps, and backs for signs of burns or cracks in the skin.  Just like with humans - sunburns can lead to skin cancer in animals.  Consult a Veterinarian if you notice burns, blisters, "moles" or nodules.

For our less fortunate furry friends --

Consider donating tarps to shelters for outdoor pens.  Your old box fan would probably be appreciated too to add a breeze to kennels, barns, hutches, and other animal holding areas.  Some shelters employ mister stations - check your local facilities as that may be an item to consider donating.  Ask the shelter if that old plastic pool the kids won't play in anymore would be helpful.  Some shelters with horse and cattle that have been rescued have even employed old tubs for holding water - doesn't hurt to ask if you're remodeling.

Remember, if you're hot and miserable - so are the animals.

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