Pictured: Niko enjoys some pool time while staying cool at the Humane Society of Ventura County shelter in Ojai, June 11, 2020. Photo submitted 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Two things are certain. First, it has been very hot and, second, this won’t be the last heat wave Ventura County residents and their animals will endure. With climate change, we can expect more days in the triple digits and keeping people and pets cool can be a challenge. 

“If you are uncomfortable outside during the heat, your pets are, too,” said Greg Cooper, director of community outreach for the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) in Ojai. “The best thing is to keep them safely home during the hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.” 

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“We take every precaution to protect the animals under our care,” said Angela Hanline, kennel manager at HSVC. She said during the heat of the summer months animals are  kept in the cooler areas of the shelter and kennel floors are hosed down for additional relief. “We also like to give the dogs access to water troughs where they can play and cool off, and we give them ‘pup-sicles,’” a custom dog treat made from ice.

Temperatures in vehicles, on the bed of a pickup truck or even on a hot sidewalk can be even hotter than the air temperatures and can injure pets, and in some cases cause their death. People also can get heat stroke from being in parked vehicles, particularly the elderly, the young or those with other health conditions. 

“It is important that all Californians take this seriously and take concrete steps to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke by staying inside, drinking plenty of water and having a family emergency plan for extreme weather,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Tips to protect pets

Dog owners are encouraged to only walk their pets in the early morning or night time and to check the temperature of the cement and asphalt. This is also the best time for people to walk. Those at risk for heat stroke are discouraged from walking or exercising outside during the hottest parts of the day. 

“Place your hand on the surface for seven seconds,” said T. Vail, senior humane officer with HSVC. “If you can bear it, then it’s safe.” But those with pickup trucks should be aware that pickup truck beds can be 20 to 40 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature and animals should not be transported during the heat of the day. 

No animal, and particularly dogs, should ever be left in a parked car on a hot day, even if the windows are left slightly open. Temperatures inside the vehicle can quickly rise to levels that the dog cannot cope with. 

Animals that are confined at home should have proper accommodations including fresh water that is placed in the shade and they should have access to shade. Water dishes should be checked regularly to ensure they are not tipped over. Plastic dishes are suggested as metal ones conduct heat. 

“If you live in a particularly hot area, it’s important to have proper ventilation at all times,” said K. King, another humane officer with HSVC.

Signs of heat distress

If you think your pet is showing signs of heat distress, which includes heavy and fast panting, drooling/salivating, agitation and restlessness, a bright red tongue, very red or pale gums, increased heart rate and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea, the pet should be removed from the heat immediately. If possible, douse them with cool — not ice cold — water. Veterinary care should be sought as quickly as possible. 

If you’re in public and see an animal in distress, call local law enforcement. The Humane Society is not able to help in distress situations. 

Signs of heat distress in humans include fainting, confusion and agitation, staggering or acting strangely. A temperature over 104 degrees and dry, flushed skin are also symptoms. Those suffering from heat stroke may have a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse, and may stop sweating. 

911 should be called immediately if heat stroke is suspected and the person should be removed from the heat and into a shady, air conditioned or cool place. A cold, wet cloth should be applied to wrists, neck, armpits and the groin area: These are places where blood flows close to the surface of the skin and the cool cloth can help cool the blood. 

Protecting people from heat stroke

Many people are also at high risk of illness, including heat stroke and death, due to excessive heat exposure. Most people know the obvious suggestions of staying hydrated and keeping cool, but not all people have access to air conditioning. 

Thousand Oaks-based Senior Concerns, a nonprofit organization providing assistance and resources to seniors, reports that older people and those with health problems are more at risk and those caring for them should take extra precautions. 

Drinking fluids is important, but staying away from caffeine and alcohol is also important. Water, fruit and vegetable juices provide more hydration. Those who may be limiting fluids on doctors’ orders should ask their doctor how to handle the hot days. 

Those with limited access to fans or air conditioning can open windows at night when it is cooler and close them in the morning before it gets hot. Close curtains and shades to help keep the heat out, and limit the use of the oven and other heat-generating appliances. You can also cool off in a shower or bath; even a sponge bath can help. Another option to consider is lying down and resting in the coolest place you can find. 

For more information on staying safe during heat waves, visit,  www.caloes.ca.gov/ICESite/Pages/Summer-Heat-Resources.aspx