Patrick Robinson

Reminders on keeping our dogs safe as Seattle heats up

The topic of dogs, heat and safety is particularly relevant as Seattle begins to experience temperatures reaching into the 80s and the West Seattle community reflects on the story of a dog left in an abandoned car at Westwood Village for nearly a week with no food, water or open windows.

The dog, Zipper, was rescued by Seattle Police and is now in the care of Seattle Animal Shelter while possible animal cruelty charges are assessed.

Regional Animal Services of King County sent out the following announcement on May 1 to remind pet owners about the importance of keeping our pets safe during the warmer months:

In Warm Weather, “Hot” Dogs Are Not Cool
Regional Animal Services of King County offers tips to keep pets safe in summerlike temperatures

With temperatures expected to top out near 80 degrees this weekend, Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) wants to remind pet owners to keep their furry friends safe and cool as our region heads toward summer.

"We haven't had temperatures this high for several months, so people and pets need to take it easy at first," said Dr. Gene Mueller, manager of Regional Animal Services. "After a long and dreary winter, animals need to get re-acclimated to the heat just like humans do. If you head out with your pet this weekend, keep a slower pace at first, make sure you both drink plenty of water, and find a shady spot to rest when you need it."

Animals cannot sweat like humans, and they are vulnerable to overheating quickly, especially when the temperature rises above 70 degrees. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh, cool water to your pets, and shade from the sun. Though pets need exercise during warm weather, take extra care when exercising older dogs, short-nosed dogs, and dogs with thick coats, as they are especially vulnerable to overheating. On hot days, limit exercise to early morning or late evening hours.

Another danger is leaving pets in a vehicle. In sunny weather, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to 120 degrees or more, even with windows left slightly open. Animals left in a hot car, even for just a few minutes, can suffer from heat stroke, brain damage, or death. In addition, leaving a pet unattended in a hot car can be grounds for animal cruelty charges. In warm weather, leave your pets at home instead of taking them with you on errands.

If you see an animal in distress in an unattended vehicle, first try to contact authorities at the location you are visiting. They may be able to help locate the vehicle's owner to unlock it quickly. If security guards or other authorities are unavailable, call 9-1-1 or 206-296-PETS (7387) immediately.

Your pet's paws can be burned when walking on hot pavement, and the skin on a dog's nose can sunburn. Be sure your animals have access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water when playing outdoors. Do not over-exert pets during the warmest hours of the day, and avoid long walks or extended exercise outdoors. If your dog or cat becomes overheated, apply cool water or cool, moist towels to their head, neck, and chest. Then immediately take the animal to a veterinarian. For additional warm weather precautions, consult your pet's veterinarian.

This is also the time of year when lawn care and gardening heats up. Plant food, fertilizer, weed killers, and insecticides can be fatal if your pet ingests them. These chemicals can also cause irritation if they get in contact with paws or skin. If you suspect your pet has ingested or otherwise come into contact with lawn and garden chemicals, contact your veterinarian immediately. Summer is also flea and tick season, so make sure you use a flea and tick treatment recommended by your veterinarian.

By taking these simple precautions, you and your pets will be able to enjoy the long warm days ahead, and keep yourselves healthy and safe.

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