SPRINGFIELD — If it’s brutally hot outside for you, it’s likely even hotter for your pet.
The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) wants pet owners to clearly understand the risks that hot weather brings to beloved companion animals and outdoor pets.
When it comes to cars, even on a temperate day, heat rises in a matter of minutes to sometimes over 100 degrees. Imagine what can happen when it’s already more than 95 degrees outside with a dog locked in a closed car without air conditioning running.
“We encourage pet owners to travel with their pets when it’s hot out only if absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Olivia Rudolphi, president of ISVMA.
“Sure, it’s always nice to take the pup out for a drive to get them out of the house. But if you leave him or her in the car, even for a short period of time with windows cracked, it’s just not enough for the rising heat to escape from the vehicle.”
Rudolphi suggests leaving the pet at home if there is a possibility that they will be required to be kept in a vehicle without adequate ventilation. If you’re going on a car trip with your dog or cat, she suggests you consider these tips to ensure their and your utmost safety:
• When you’re on a road trip with a pet, prepare to make sure they can stay hydrated. Ensure there is plenty of cool water and that they have seating or riding options that can keep them out of the direct sun.
• Create safety boundaries: Keep your dog or cat away from your driving space in the car. It’s never a good idea to let animals rest on your lap, to lay in a foot well or hang out windows, actions that could cause an accident. Know that it is against the law in Illinois to have a pet in the driver’s seat while the car is in motion.
• Don’t play with or feed your pet while driving. Distractions can cause interference with your ability to react to any driving condition.
• When stopped for a break, avoid letting your pet walk on hot surfaces, such as blacktop or concrete parking lots or sidewalks that can burn his or her paws.
• Talk with your veterinarian about hot weather tips and how to keep your pet safe from heat exposure/exhaustion. It’s extremely important to know how to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and what first aid you may administer if your pet becomes stressed.
Dr. Rudolphi reports that there are other summertime safety issues to keep in mind as well beyond car travel:
• Take walks or hikes in cooler times of day (morning/evening), not running or walking with your dog in the hottest times of day (mid-morning/noon/early afternoon).
• If you have an outdoor dog, cat or other animal, ensure they have plenty of water to drink and have shade options to keep them out of the direct sun. Consider moving them indoors, into a garage with plenty of ventilation (i.e., fan) or in a basement where it is cooler than outside during the hottest times of the day.
• Consider a “summer cut” for your pooch, helping him or her to keep their body cooler.
• Perform frequent “coat checks” to look for ticks embedded in their fur if in the great outdoors. Make sure they’re protected with effective anti-parasite collars, powders, treatments or other preventative options.
• Talk with your veterinarian about heart-worm protection, even if you have a dog that is primarily kept indoors. Mosquitos are equal-opportunity organisms and it only takes a matter of seconds for a bite from a single mosquito to infect your dog. This is a simple and effective way to keep your dog safe from infection by these deadly parasites.
• Make sure garden and yard fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals are out of a pet’s reach. Also, be sure to read the labels of each chemical to determine the withdrawal time the pet needs to be restricted from the treated area.
• Know that dirt, mud and standing bodies of water (stagnant ponds) can be breeding grounds for infectious parasites.
• When you have your pet out in larger bodies of water, whether on a boat or at a beach, make sure they are protected with a flotation device or other safety gear as water currents or large waves can be just as dangerous to them as they are to people.
• If cooking outdoors, know that there are human foods that can be toxic or dangerous to animals, especially dogs. These would include bones from various cuts of meat (pork chops/steaks/ribs/chicken), pork products (rich in fat that can upset stomachs), alcohol, guacamole and anything made with or has naturally occurring sugar as an ingredient (desserts/baked goods, ketchup, BBQ sauce, grapes). Chocolate can be toxic to dogs.
Also, it’s a good idea not to pour grille drippings on the ground for a pet to eat; they could ingest dirt and rocks, creating all kinds of problems.