The Ottumwa Courier

August 28, 2013

Heat poses pet risks

Courier staff writer

---- — FAIRFIELD — There's no question that this heat is making lots of people uncomfortable. Chances are your pet isn't enjoying it much more than you are.

The basic rules for keeping your pet safe aren't that dissimilar from the ones for people. Stay in air conditioning when possible. If you have to be outside, watch for symptoms of overheating. Older and younger pets tend to be more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.

And never, ever leave a pet in a car, even for a few minutes. Cracking the windows an inch or so won't do much to keep the interior from quickly becoming an oven.

For Dawn Safrit, the challenges are multiplied. She's charged with caring for the animals at Noah's Ark Animal Foundation in Fairfield. The shelter is lucky in one respect: It has air conditioning and space.

“Fortunately, we have indoor kennels for our dogs. Everybody stays inside,” she said.

Not surprisingly, the cats have a different approach to the weather. You still have to keep a close eye on them, but they're less fussy about whether to flop down in that patch of sun coming in through the window than the dogs are.

There are a handful of issues your pet has to face that you don't. The sidewalk or street isn't usually hot enough for you to notice as you walk, but pets don't wear shoes. Stay off pavement to avoid burning your pet's paws, and walk in the morning or evening when it's a bit cooler.

“People may not realize how hot that sidewalk is,” Safrit said.

Brushing your pet can do more than you think. Hairs that have been shed still help keep in heat, so getting rid of them with regular brushing can help provide relief. So can a trim, though you still need to keep hair long enough to protect your pet's skin from the sun.

Make sure your pet has access to water, and you may need to refill the water bowl more often than normal. A couple ice cubes in the dish aren't a bad idea, either.

Heatstroke is the biggest risk for pets. As with people, heatstroke is when the body becomes unable to cope with the heat. It's potentially lethal. Symptoms can include lethargy, drooling, fever and vomiting.

“Heatstroke is a big risk for dogs, especially short-nosed dogs,” said Safrit. “If you think your dog has heatstroke, you need to get it to a vet immediately.”

Tips from the Humane Society of the United States:

• Limit exercise on hot days

• Watch the humidity

• Fans aren't as effective on pets as people

• Make some canine popsicles

Yes, you read that right. Peanut butter popsicles for your favorite pooch. Here's the recipe from the HSUS website:

In a small mixing bowl, combine peanut butter with a little water or half a mashed banana. (The water and banana aren't essential but help with freezing consistency.) Line an ice cube tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. (You don't have to use the paper, but it can make prying the cubes out easier.) Spoon the mixture into the cubes, or drop onto the tray just like you would cookie dough. Freeze. If you need to reuse the tray right away, pop out the cubes and store them in a bag or container in the freezer. Serve. Turn any hot dog into a happy camper.