Temps expected to hit 114 degrees during extreme heat wave; pets need extra care

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat alert for Washington County starting Thursday and lasting through 9 p.m. Saturday, St. George, Utah, July 20, 2022 | Image by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Washington County starting Monday at noon and lasting through midnight on Friday, making it more important than usual to take care of yourself and your four-legged friends.

Taking care of dogs, like these earlier this summer at Van Fest USA at Legacy Park, is especially important during extreme heat waves, Washington County, Utah, May 8, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

According to the NWS alert, dangerously hot conditions with temperatures predicted to reach 114 degrees are expected to last all week in lower Washington County, including the cities of St. George, Washington and Ivins.

Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat related illnesses, especially for those who work or recreate outdoors. The NWS alert recommends staying inside with air conditioning, drinking plenty of fluids and never leaving young children or pets unattended outside.

Amy Murdock, medical director at Southwest Emergency Animal Clinic in St. George, said in an email to St. George News that her clinic sees an increase in animal emergencies during heat waves.

“We get animals with elevated body temperature (any body temperature 104 degrees Fahrenheit), panting, dehydration, burnt paw pads, disorientation, heat stroke, severe exertional hyperthermia symptoms, duration of hyperthermia and intensity of elevation of body temperature,” Murdock wrote.

She said pet owners can take some steps to prevent a trip to the emergency vet clinic during a heat wave.

Stock photo.| Photo by
max-kegfire/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

It seems obvious, but one of the most important steps is to make sure your pets have access to fresh water.

Murdock also discourages exercising with pets in extreme heat even if they are acclimated to hot weather because they can still get exertional hyperthermia and are unable to cool themselves adequately. 

Dogs’ sweat glands are located in their pad paws. Even still, it is rare that dogs sweat through their paw pads as a means to cool themselves because it is less efficient than panting, which acts as a type of thermoregulation. As such, dogs should be walked early in the morning or in the evening once it cools off. 

Murdock said because cats normally don’t pant, if they are panting, there is generally a concern for an underlying condition.

“Pet owners should be aware that the asphalt (and gravel) is still very hot on their pets’ pads, even if the outside temperature is cooler,” Murdock wrote.

Since heat is significantly amplified inside a car, Murdock recommends never leaving your dogs or cats inside a car without air conditioning in the summer.

Pets who live outside normally should be okay but keep an eye on them, she said.

As long as your pet has shade and access to water (and is acclimated to our hot weather) they can be okay outside,” Murdock wrote. “Be sure to check on your outside pets’ water twice a day.”

Murdock added that if you think your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet for a temperature check and treatment if necessary.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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