How to keep your pets safe in a dangerous heat wave

With a blazing heat wave expected to engulf a large portion of the country this weekend, it’s a good time to remember that not only do we need to take care of ourselves, but our furry friends, too.

The American Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty has put out a list of tips people can use to make sure their pets stay safe in escalating temperatures this weekend, when TODAY's Al Roker says more than 100 heat records could be smashed.
Dogs can really feel the impact of the heat this weekend, so it's important to take precautions to keep them safe.Getty Images

Here are some steps you can take to keep your animals healthy and happy as the thermometer hits triple digits:

  • Give them plenty of water to keep them hydrated and have a place in the shade where they can go to escape the sun. Do not make them exercise too much and stay indoors if it’s too hot.
  • Do not keep pets in a parked car , which can cause heat stroke. Plus, doing so is against the law in many states.
  • Be aware of overheating symptoms in pets. These include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, drooling, weakness and even falling down. Seizures, diarrhea and vomiting may also take place. If you suspect your dog is overheating, Dr. Heather Loenser, senior veterinarian officer at the American Animal Hospital Association, advises cooling him or her off slowly instead of throwing the animal in water or running a cold hose over them. "If you do that, they're gonna cool off too quickly and they can have fatal consequences," she told TODAY in an appearance last year.

Keep Them Active. Energy varies between breeds, says Dr. Becker. “Greyhounds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies, and other active breeds have unfathomable energy.” He continues, “wolves spend 80% of their time awake, moving. With cats, there’s not such an exercise requirement,” but providing outlets for play at home is still crucial. For both cats and dogs he recommends food-dispensing that “recreates the hunt,” and puzzle feeders that engage your pet’s “body and mind.”

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  • Make sure someone is near your pets if they’re at a pool. Not all animals can swim well. If you take a dog swimming, rinse him or her off after getting out to get any chlorine or salt out of the fur.
  • It’s OK to trim longer hair on dogs, but don’t shave them — their coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more than normal can also stave off issues that come from sizzling temperatures.
There are lots of steps you can take to keep your pet comfotable and safe in a heat wave.Shutterstock
  • Do not let dogs remain too long on hot asphalt , which can burn their paws. In fact, it’s important to keep them off any hot ground for too long. Loenser also says putting boots on their paws can be a good way to protect them from hot pavement.
That's not the only accessory dogs can use, either; cooling vests can go a long way. "You get them wet, put them on the dog and as they dry it evaporates their body heat away," Loenser told TODAY.

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