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Heat and Fire Safety

Summer comes with scorching temperatures. Are you prepared to beat the heat with your furry friends? To stay safe from fire and heat dangers, keep your pets out of dangerous areas including hot cars and pavement. Stay aware of the situation around you and have a plan in case of emergency. Learn first aid for heatstroke and burns in case your pets are affected. Stay calm and reach out to an emergency veterinary clinic whenever a concern arises. Fire and heat safety can be a serious topic, so remember to keep the hot dogs on the grill and your pets in the shade.

Hot Cars and Pavement

Don’t ever leave your pet in your car. It is unsafe for anyone when the outside temperature is more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In 8 minutes, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in the middle of summer. Most often, this causes heat stroke (read more below in First Aid). Football player Tryann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs tried sitting in a hot car to show what it feels like for dogs, and he became extremely dizzy and had to escape the car after just six minutes. And that’s while he was sweating profusely to try and cool off, something our furry friends just can’t do.

If you see a dog alone in a car during summer, write down details of the car they are in and ask for help finding their owner in nearby buildings. Call humane authorities or animal control, and don’t hesitate to call the police if the pup looks to be in distress or is experiencing heat stroke. Do not leave the scene until the dog is safe.

Like our hands and feet, dogs and cats are very sensitive to temperature on their paws. But because they don’t (usually) wear shoes out of the house, pet owners need to pay extra attention to the temperature of any surface your pet walks on. Pavements are much hotter than the air temperature around them: a breezy 77 degrees Fahrenheit means the asphalt is 125 degrees, which can cause major skin damage in just 60 seconds. To avoid overly hot pavements, walk your dog only in the early morning and evening, and try to stick to cooler areas like grass. If you are ever unsure whether a surface is too hot for your dog, place the back of your hand there for seven seconds. If this is painful or even uncomfortable, it is not safe for your pet to walk on.

Fire Safety

Everyone should create a fire evacuation plan for emergencies that occur year round. Dry and hot summers do have a higher potential to cause a fire, and in-home appliances or mistakes can also lead to a devastating fire. Include your pets in these plans, and seriously consider these five tips for optimal fire safety and prevention.

  1. Ensure you have working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors that can de-escalate the problem. 
  2. Keep your pets away from open flames like a fireplace or candle, and other hazards. 
  3. Note your pet’s favorite hiding and napping spots so you can find them easily in an emergency.
  4. In case of emergency, tell first responders that you have pets and where they may be. Keep track of your furry friends and ensure they are microchipped in case they do wander off.
  5. Monitor your pets after a fire for signs of smoke inhalation. The most common include lethargy and having trouble breathing. 
  6. Incorporate a visit to the veterinarian in disaster recovery plans, just in case.

First Aid — Burns and Heat Stroke

Your pet may get burned from extreme heat, friction on a rope or carpet, or chemicals and their fumes. The most common for our furry friends is the thermal burn, caused by fire, smoke, steam, or extremely hot surfaces like a pot on the stove. Burns are classified by how many layers of skin they damage. A first-degree burn involves only the outermost layer of skin, second-degree burns affectthe next two layers (epidermis and outer layers of the dermis), and third-degree burns affect these layers and more, resulting in the loss of pain sensation in the area. 

If your furry friend gets burned, stay calm and handle them gently. Do not apply pressure to the burns and bring them to an emergency veterinarian immediately. Diagnostic tests such as bloodwork may be run to assess what’s going on inside your furry friend. Depending on the severity of the burn, there are multiple treatment plans that may be followed. Pain management is important as is protecting the injured tissue so it can heal. Antibiotics and bandages may be needed along with intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration. 

It’s important to take action to prevent and care for burns on your pet. While first-degree burns take just a few days to heal, second-degree burns may take weeks and have risk of infection. Third-degree burns can be taxing for a pet and lead to extreme consequences, depending on their overall health and how large the burn is. Reach out to your veterinarian with any questions to help your furry friend get the care they deserve. 

Another possibility in high temperatures is that your pet gets heat stroke. This is caused by excessive heat and humidity, lack of shade, dehydration, and over-exertion. Most commonly, heat stroke occurs when a dog is left in a car. Every pet is different; some may tolerate high temperatures while others develop a reaction in seemingly mild conditions. Common symptoms of heat stroke include elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, abnormal gum color and bruising, acting lethargic or disoriented, and even seizures. 

If your pet has heat stroke, immediately place them in a cool area. Bathe them with lukewarm water; be sure to not use ice cold water. Monitor their temperature using a rectal thermometer. The average temperature for dogs and cats is between 101° F and 102.5° F. So when your pet’s temperature reaches 103°* F, it is safe to bring them out of the bath and dry them off. Do not continue cooling them off at this point, it could lead to hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature). Bring them to the vet immediately and continue monitoring for temperature. 

Beat the Heat

Whether the temperature is freezing, boiling, or even a breezy 67° F, look out for your pet’s reactions to the great outdoors. Stay alert and stay calm. Take precautions and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Contact a professional whenever in doubt rather than panicking, ignoring the problem, or relying exclusively on information found on the internet. Remember, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your pets and they trust you to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. They will reward you with cuddles and kisses!