MISSOULA — A group of Montanans may need some help in staying cool as the heatwave tears through western Montana, sending people on a hunt for air conditioning, shade, and water.
Animals are especially vulnerable to excessive heat.
Experts say it’s best to keep your four-legged friends indoors, but if that isn’t an option, there are steps you can follow to ensure they stay safe.
A perk of being a human is cooling yourself off when you get too toasty. Unfortunately, our furry companions don’t have that ability, so when the temperatures soar, erring on the side of caution can be lifesaving for your pet.
A veterinarian of 37 years, Dr. Jani Zirbel says when it comes to determining how to care for your pet in extreme heat, it depends on whether your pup is used to being outdoors or not.
“Those pets that are acclimated to being outside, it isn't as much of a problem as long as they have shade and lots of fresh water. They'll probably be okay.”
A frozen snack like chicken broth ice cubes can also be of help for those strictly outdoor dogs. Indoor pups should probably skip the mid-day play date and afternoon walk altogether.
“I just started telling people before 10 in the morning and after 10 at night, and otherwise they go outside just long enough to pee and poop, and then that's it. There's not enough water to keep them cool." - Dr. Jani Zirbel
Humane Society of Western Montana behavior manager Tiff Shao says a go-to fixture in her yard is a kiddie pool.
“What I'm doing right now is throwing some treats in the pool and Blueberry is having a great time bobbing for those treats.”
Dr. Zirbel says if using the kiddie pool approach, having the right temperature of the water is crucial.
“If you think they’re hot, you need tepid water, not ice-cold water. That shocks their thermoregulatory mechanisms and then the temperature goes the other way and they just start yo-yo-ing.
If you don’t have a kiddie pool lying around, Shao recommends a cheaper alternative to a cooling vest.
“Nice little rub down with a nice cool towel, instead of being doused by the water...do you like that Blueberry?”
Other safety tips include avoiding asphalt as it will burn your pet’s paws, not relying on fans since they don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
Additionally, tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct airflow like a dog house does. Limit exercise and never leave your dog in a parked car where temperatures rise rapidly.
“I worry about the dogs in this heat, even in the shade,” Shao concluded.
If you think your pet is experiencing heat exhaustion -- that’s heavy panting, disorientation, red gums or collapsing, go ahead and call a veterinarian.