How to keep your pets safe while you are without power

Posted at 4:52 AM, Jul 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-03 06:10:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – If you are still without power and you are a pet owner, as tough as it has been on you in the heat, it’s dangerous for your animals as well. If you’ve never had to deal with this combination of having a pet and being without power for days, here are some helpful tips from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

If you have to leave your home for cooling shelters, most shelters do not allow pets (some exceptions are made for service animals).  Contact your local government emergency management office to ask about any free pet-friendly shelters near you. Be sure to ask about any restrictions on the number, size, and species of pets. Some “no pet” policies may be waived in an emergency, too.

The Humane Society says, “Even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat, whether outdoors in a yard or inside a house, can be dangerous for an animal.” The group advises you find cool shelter for your pet(s), too. Ideally, take them with you to pet-friendly hotels if you can afford the stay in one.

“This extreme heat and humidity can pose health risks for people, but it’s also a dangerous time for our pets,” said Niki Dawson, director of disaster response for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States reminds everyone that the heat can be fatal for their pets and urges them to take precautions to protect our furry friends during this record-setting hot spell.”

As you travel with your pet(s), don’t forget that you cannot leave them in a car! Just as you would not leave a child in a hot car, do not leave your pet in there, either, even with the windows cracked. Also, do not allow your pet(s) to walk on hot pavement (their paws can burn quickly).

If you cannot find a hotel or shelter willing to take both you and your pet(s), ask friends or relatives with power willing to house your pet(s). If you have more than one pet, be prepared to have to house them at separate locations.

Another tip from the HSUS, “Some boarding facilities and veterinary offices might be able to shelter animals in emergencies. Your local animal shelter will likely not have room to board your pets during this heat emergency, but they may be able to recommend alternate facilities.”

If you choose to or must remain in your home without power and your pets remain with you there, keep windows and doors open for air ventilation, but cover them with shades or sheets to limit daytime sunlight heating. Keep extra water bowls out for your pets, as they will likely drink more than usual, just as you drink more water, too. Create shade for your pets when they do go outdoors to use the bathroom. You can hang a tarp or sheet. A doghouse in the high heat is dangerous, so close the entry to the house so your pet cannot seek shelter in there. It’s like a mini sauna and can lead to heat-related illnesses or death.

Do you know the signs of heatstroke in your pet?  The HSUS says, “Some signs of heatstroke are: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.”

If your pet is older, very young, overweight, not accustomed to exercise, or has a heart or respiratory condition, then he/she is at a higher risk for heat stroke. Also, the HSUS says certain “breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short, smushed muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.”  In addition, “Because dogs do not sweat the same way as humans, fans do not have the same cooling effect for them.”

“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” adds Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly.”

For a dog, you need to take medical action as soon as their temperature climbs above 104 degrees. Of course if you’re in doubt as to the current state of your pet’s health in the heat, contact a veterinarian immediately.

In the meantime, you can follow these recommended steps:

  • Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Apply ice, frozen packs or cold towels to the head, neck and chest or run cool water over the entire body.
  • Let the pet drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
  • Take pet directly to a veterinarian.

Meteorologist Carrie Rose

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization. On the Web at

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association was formed as a home for veterinary professionals who want to join together to speak out for animals, engage in direct care programs for animals in need, and educate the public and others in the profession about animal welfare issues. The HSVMA is an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.