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Protecting animals from extreme heat

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

July 22, 2011 — Stifling heat has settled in across the country and pet owners are urged to protect their animals from the hot and humid conditions.

Animals can suffer from heat stroke
Animals can suffer from heat stroke

Canadians are urged to stay hydrated and avoid any strenuous activity as temperatures rise, but it's important to remember about our furry friends as well.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says they continue to respond to reports of pets being left in hot cars as a heat wave grips the region. High temperatures can be a serious danger to pets and can easily cause severe distress or even death.

“The reason for that is they're unable to sweat and because of that they over heat very quickly and this can lead to brain damage and eventual death,” says SPCA Agent Brad Dewar.

“If it's hot for us, it's hot for our pets and if we were left outside with a fur coat on, we'd be exceptionally hot in these types of conditions. So it's wise to consider thinking about that prior to leaving your pet unattended,” adds Dewar.

Common signs that an animal is suffering from heat stroke include things like panting heavily, having a dazed look, twitching muscles and even vomiting.

The SPCA says if heat stroke is suspected, prompt veterinary medical attention is crucial. In the meantime however, wet the fur with lukewarm water immediately, bring the pet into shade and offer it drinking water.

If a person is convicted of animal cruelty, they could receive the charge of two years imprisonment, a lifetime ban from owning an animal or a $60,000 fine, warns Dewar.

Polar bears seek relief in pools and shade at the zoo
Polar bears seek relief in pools and shade at the zoo

Zoos across the country are also doing their share to help animals beat the heat.

“We're very diligent in looking at them and seeing that they're not going to be heat stressed in any way,” says Tom Mason, Curator at the Toronto Zoo. “There's the normal behaviour of the panting and slow movement, but if we see it getting too extreme, then we'll move them indoors.”

While most people think the bigger animals like polar bears would suffer greatly in the heat, Mason says they have the pool and areas of shade which help them adapt to the hotter weather.

“And polar bears can withstand a fair amount of heat. The white hair they've got reflects a lot of the power of the sun.”

Mason adds that the Snowy Owls are actually the number one concern since they are an arctic species.

“The exhibit is similar to the wild being out and exposed so we've put shade cloth over the top, we've put misters in, but with this really extreme temperature we've actually pulled them off site and put them into a cooler room.”

Here are some tips for keeping your animal cool throughout the summer months:

  • Keep pets in the shade.
  • Limit their outdoor activity.
  • Give them plenty of extra water.
  • Never leave them unattended in cars.

For information on tasty cool treats to give your pets this summer, check out Pets & Weather: Staying Cool.

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