The following is a list of 5 simple precautions a pet owner can take to protect their animal from overheating. If you suspect your animal has heat stroke, contact a veterinarian immediately-heat stroke can be a life threatening condition for your animal!
1. Regularly give your animal fresh drinking water. While this seems like a no-brainer, owners often forget that water bowls need to be filled much more regularly during higher temperatures. If you have that little thing called work and aren't home all day to monitor your animals water bowl, fear not-there are water dispensers that automatically filter and release water to quench your animal's thirst immediately. Some pets also enjoy having ice cubes in their water, or to play around with (the contact of the ice cube, even during light play, encourages cooling as well). However, if your dog or cat is not a fan, this may actually deter them from drinking their water, so test out an ice cube or two with your animal before implementing any regular ice usage.
2. Make the house as cool as possible and keep your animal indoors. Open the windows to let in fresh air, utilize fans and air conditioners, and use as little electricity and warming appliances as possible. Cats especially need a cool and safe place to sleep, particularly during the highest heat of the day. An owner can make a “fort” of sorts by clearing out a cabinet, cardboard box, closet space or any other cool, dark spot, and place a light cotton material or terrycloth towel down (any light, breathable material will do). You can also dampen the cloth and/or wrap an ice pack in an additional towel and place it somewhere within the fort to encourage further cooling. If possible, place a bowl of water in the fort as well-the more access to water the better!
3. DO NOT encourage play! While that may sound very mean mommy-ish, think about it-would you want to run around when it’s 100 degrees out? Hopefully, your response was an emphatic no and your pet would agree. Keep walks short, refrain from throwing the ball and don’t bring out those potent catnip toys.
4. Take fur care seriously. While only very specific dog breeds can be completely shaved (this should always be checked before any action is taken!), trimming long hair can provide relief from the stifling heat of a thick and overgrown coat. And for both cats and dogs, brushing the fur more regularly can prevent excess hair buildup and aid in the cooling process.
5. Use water for more than drinking. Owners can instantly cool their cat or dog by rubbing them down with dampened towels. Dogs are usually bathed regularly and should be somewhat familiar with water; a dog can even be bathed in cold water if the damp towels are not sufficient enough. And while most cats usually hate getting wet, they are more accepting of cool liquid during times of intense heat. Owners should focus on their bellies, paw pads, armpits, chins and ears, as these areas get the warmest and will benefit the most from being stroked with a wet cloth.
Care for your animal the way you would care for yourself in hot weather! Make cooling down a bonding activity; hot weather is the perfect excuse to lounge around in front of the fan with your cat or chew on ice cubes with your dog.
Quick tip: wet food is a great source of hydration for both cats and dogs!
Symptoms of heat stroke: excessive panting, drooling, breathing trouble, increased heart rate, weakness (that may lead to collapse), apathy and disorientation. More severe signs can include seizures, as well as bloody diarrhea and vomiting accompanied by a high fever (usually over 104 degrees Fahrenheit). Older and overweight pets, as well as animals with known heart/lung diseases, should be monitored and kept in cool, ideally air-conditioned rooms, as they are at higher risk for heatstroke. For more information about heat stroke and how to prevent it, visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety/protecting-pets-from-heat.