Humane Society offers tips for pet owners dealing with heat and power outages


As much of the country experiences record-high temperatures for the fourth consecutive day and thousands of homes are currently without power, The Humane Society of the United States reminds pet owners to protect their animal companions.

The plains and mid-Atlantic regions will continue to experience devastating heat this week. Those who are forced to leave their homes due to lack of electricity should not leave their pets behind. Even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat, whether outdoors in a yard or inside a house, can be dangerous for an animal.

"This extreme heat and humidity can pose health risks for people, but it's also a dangerous time for our pets," said Niki Dawson, director of disaster response for The HSUS. "The Humane Society of the United States reminds everyone that the heat can be fatal for their pets and urges them to take precautions to protect our furry friends during this record-setting hot spell."

Take pets with you.

If you need to find a cool place to stay, contact your local government emergency management office to ask about pet-friendly shelters, or contact hotels and motels outside the affected area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species. Inquire if the "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency. And remember that when traveling with your pets, do not leave them alone in the car, even with the windows cracked, and do not allow your pet to walk on hot sidewalks or pavement.

Visit our website to find a list of pet-friendly hotels and other evacuation tips.

If you can't find a hotel or shelter, check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.

Some boarding facilities and veterinary offices might be able to shelter animals in emergencies. Your local animal shelter will likely not have room to board your pets during this heat emergency, but they may be able to recommend alternate facilities.{}

Keep Pets Safe at Home.

If you do ride out the heat with your pets at home, keep windows and doors open for air ventilation, but cover them with shades or sheets to keep the sunlight out. Make sure you and your pets drink as much water as possible. Pets outdoors must have access to shade - if you don't have tree shade, hang a tarp or sheet to create some. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat. {}{}

Recognize the signs of heatstroke.

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. {}Some signs of heatstroke are: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short, smushed muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat. Because dogs do not sweat the same way as humans, fans do not have the same cooling effect for them.

"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet," adds Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body.{}If the humidity is too high they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly."

Taking a dog's temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. If their temperature goes over 104 degrees, immediate steps need to be taken.

When in doubt, contact a veterinarian. If you cannot contact a veterinarian, follow the tips below.

If you fear your pet may be suffering heatstroke, following these tips could save her life:

  • Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Apply ice, frozen packs or cold towels to her head, neck and chest or run cool water over her.
  • Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
  • Take her directly to a veterinarian.
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