Hot weather advisory for pets and their owners

June 4, 2009

By Contributor

NEW — 1:20 p.m. June 4, 2009

King County residents are encouraged to prepare their pets for hot weather the next few days as temperatures are predicted to reach at least 90 degrees in some areas.

In the past several days, King County Animal Control officers have responded to multiple calls from concerned residents who have seen dogs left alone in hot cars by their owners.

“Our weather is normally pretty comfortable year-round and people often forget that animals are wearing a fur coat 24 hours a day,” said King County Animal Care and Control Interim Manager Nancy McKenney. “They have a hard time handling sudden increases or decreases in temperature, so humans need to help them stay cool and not overexert them when it is hot outside.”

Leave pets at home rather than taking them on errands in the car. Cars can act like ovens; the inside temperature rises quickly, even in the shade with the windows cracked. Animals left in a hot car for even a short amount of time can suffer from heatstroke or death.

If a dog or cat shows signs of being overheated, such as faster than usual panting, a bright-red tongue, thick or sticky saliva and dizziness or vomiting, move them to a cool area and apply cool water or cold towels to their head, neck, chest and foot pads, and quickly take the animal to a veterinarian. 

Horses can also struggle to cool off in hot weather, so owners should make sure they have access to a cool, shady spot (some barns may be shaded, but hot and stuffy) and lots of cool, clean water that can be easily reached: Smaller animals may have trouble reaching water if a trough is not filled completely.

If horses must be worked hard, try to do so in early morning or late evening, when temperatures are coolest. Also watch for signs of heat stroke, such as extremely heavy breathing, significant sweating or no sweating at all. If you notice these signs, call a veterinarian. Until one arrives, sponge or spray the horse’s legs and underside with cool water, offer cool water to drink and stand your horse in a pond or stream to try to speed up the cooling process.

Dogs and cats also face other hot weather dangers. Their paws can be burned by walking on hot pavement, and the skin on a dog’s nose can sunburn. Be sure animals have access to shade and plenty of fresh, cool water while outdoors. For additional precautions, consult your pet’s veterinarian.

If you see an animal left unattended in a hot, parked car in a parking lot, first contact store security or management for assistance. Otherwise, contact King County Animal Care and Control.

By taking these simple precautions, pets and their human companions can have fun in the sun and have it made in the shade.

Get additional resources for horse owners here.

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