Summer hasn't simply hit - it brought a first round Knock Out. High temperatures and heat warnings are making their way across the country, and Georgia has not been immune. Between the intense weather headed our way and our infamous humidity, staying cool and hydrated throughout the southern summer is a must for people of all ages.
But what about those among us who don't have the luxury of cranking an air conditioner, shedding a few layers of clothing or grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge? Our pets are suffering from the same stifling heat that we are, yet many pet owners don't take the necessary precautions. Some are even oblivious to the increased danger to animals that extreme weather can pose.
Animal-friendly resources, such as the ASPCA and Animal Welfare League, publish yearly pleas to pet owners, urging them to be more cautious with animals in the summertime - even The Weather Channel has joined the discussion. Still, driving around Woodstock on any given afternoon, you're bound to see a locked car in a grocery store parking lot, no key in the ignition, and a dog in the backseat sweating it out until his owner returns.
To keep the furry citizens of Woodstock safe, here are some useful tips and facts for their owners to bear in mind as we all brave the Georgia heat together:
- Never, ever leave your animal in a vehicle - no amount of time is too short to harm them, and it shouldn't be worth the risk. The inside of your car can reach 120 degrees within a matter of minutes, and even if Fido survives, there are risks of internal issues that you may not be able to see, such as brain damage.
- If you're traveling with your pet this summer, be sure to bring a water recepticle that can be accessed even when the car is moving. As the water will heat up or even begin to evaporate over longer journeys, be sure to pick up a fresh, refrigerated bottle from any gas station you fuel up at.
- Though it's perfectly safe (and sometimes necessary) to let your pets outside for some exercise, they should always be kept in a fenced area, and should have access to a shady spot where they can hide from the sun's rays. Never leave an animal outdoors all day during any extreme weather conditions.
- Groom your pet regularly. This will help them shed excess fur and maintain the healthier base coat that protects against overheating. Bonus - the more hair you brush off, the less there is to stick to your clothes and furniture!
- Don't overexert your pet. You know how it feels to do manual labor on a hot, humid day. If your body is having a hard time adapting to the weather, you can bet your pet has the same problem. More importantly, cats and dogs don't expel heat the same way that humans do, and in some ways, their built-in responses to heat are not as effective. Shorten walks and limit outdoor playtime, and give plenty of water around the clock.
The bottom line is that our pets don't choose us, we choose them. Once that happens, we have a responsibility to our four-legged friends to pick up the slack and give them a fighting chance at a safe, comfortable summer.