[Article by Melissa Grant: North Bend resident, pet trainer and owner of Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs]
I always consider July 5th as the official start to our notoriously short but beautiful PNW summer. My birthday is July 3rd and unfortunately, I had many an outdoor party ruined by rain. While we don’t have to worry as much as other parts of the country about extreme heat and our furry friends this season, we still need to take a few precautions when the warm weather hits, at home, when playing and when traveling.
Warm Weather Warnings for Humans
When the summer heat hits, it can cause uncomfortable conditions for most of us, but can be potentially dangerous for our most vulnerable residents. We all suffer in hot weather. However, for elderly, the disabled and those with chronic health conditions such as vascular disease or diabetes, the weather can cause heat stress or even heat stroke (you can see what the signs are here). The best thing for those folks is to stay inside, but during a heat wave even the inside can be unbearable.
There are several locations in the Snoqualmie Valley for the public to stay cool. You can find those locations here. Please check on family, friends or neighbors who live alone and might need help coping.
If you do plan to stay at home, pull the curtains on all windows that are in direct sunlight. Opening uncovered windows during the day will simply make the inside temperature the same as outside. Open windows at night and use fans or cross-ventilation to circulate cooler air. A bowl of ice in front of a fan works great as makeshift A/C! Stay inside or in the shade during the hottest time of day (11am to 4 pm) and be sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as they will intensify the effects of the heat by dehydrating you.
We love to go out and play when the weather is nice, but be sensible. You just can’t do the same level of exercise when its hot that you can when its cooler. It takes 10 to 14 days for your body to adapt to being active in warmer weather and that’s being continuously active! If you decide to hike or bike despite the warm weather, take more frequent breaks, wear loose light-colored clothing, use sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids and use the buddy system to stay safe. As always let someone know where you’re going and what time you’ll be back.
If you plan on recreating in the water, be sure to know the water you’re in. In the Spring rivers can be high, swift and still cold from snow pack melt off, In the Summer, water can feel warm on the surface, but is still cold underneath. Every year we lose people to alcohol and/or simply not knowing their limits on our local lakes and rivers. Remember, lakes are not like pools and sometimes very murky. If someone goes under it can be very hard to see and be seen. Wear of life jacket when boating or tubing. Alcohol can seem like fun, but it’s generally a bad idea to drink and get in the water. Stay sober when playing in our local waterways. For more information on water safety visit the Washington Department of Health.
Tips for keeping your Canine Cool
The first and foremost danger to dogs in hot weather is the car. Don’t let your dog fall victim to the “I’ll only be a few minutes” syndrome. I don’t care how much your dog loves the car or how quick you think your trip will be, just say no to dogs in cars. No, it isn’t safe to park in the shade and roll the windows down. Cars, especially dark cars, can climb 10 to 15 degrees in temperature in only ten minutes and nearly 40 degrees in a half hour. Try putting on a winter coat and park your car in the shade on a hot day with the windows cracked. If it’s hard for you to tolerate, it will be hard for them to tolerate. Even more so because you can sweat, a dog cannot. A rise in body temperature of 5 or 6 degrees can kill a dog. Be a good dog friend and leave your buddy at home.
So, what do you do if you see a dog in a car on a hot day? First, make sure the dog is or will be in trouble. Since my dog frequently goes with me to train other dogs, I have a crate cooling fan (with ice ring), a cooling pad and a crate water bottle. Even with all that and tinted windows, I still have an upward outdoor temperature of 68. Mostly because I’m afraid someone will misread the situation and break my windows, possibly harming or losing my dog. Please don’t take it upon yourself to save the animal unless it’s an extreme circumstance. It’s not against the law to leave a dog in the car. You can call 206-386-7387 if the animal appears to be in distress (unresponsive, panting, laying on the floor) and animal control officers will investigate. However, if you know you have a life-threatening situation involving either humans and/or animals, please call 911.
Next comes heat stroke and exhaustion. When the days get really hot its best to exercise your dog in the early morning or near dusk when the temperatures are cooler. Always carry water and give them a break if they start panting furiously. Watch the asphalt temperature too. Dogs cool themselves with panting and through the pads on their feet. Make sure they have clean cool water and shade if they spend a lot of time outdoors.
Some dogs love to cool off by swimming. Be careful of pools because the chemicals used to treat the water can harm their skin or eyes. Be careful of currents in rivers and undertow in the ocean. Make sure your dog doesn’t drink any standing water in lakes or ponds, they can contain parasites that can make your dog very sick.
Summer is also a prime time for ticks and mosquitos. Ask your vet about how best to protect your pets against these nasty creatures. If you go anywhere with long grass or lots of foliage, carefully check your dog afterwards for any sign of ticks. A vet can help you remove any ticks if you are too squeamish to do it yourself.
Have fun and take it easy this summer, we Washingtonians aren’t used to that burning ball of fire in the sky. Never fear our gray weather will be back in a couple of months