How to keep yourself and your pets safe during the heat

With temperatures and the heat index potentially exceeding 100 degrees over the next few days, the St. Joseph County Department of Health is issuing a public health advisory.

The primary concern in these temperatures is heat stroke. According to Dr. Michelle Migliore, Health Officer for St. Joseph Department of Health, symptoms of heat-related illness include fatigue, headache, extreme thirst, muscle pain, and nausea.

To stay safe, Dr. Migliore advises wearing lightweight, breathable clothing, applying sunscreen to all exposed skin, avoiding heavy meals, staying hydrated with water (while avoiding alcohol) and checking on neighbors. Reserve strenuous activities like running or yardwork for cooler morning or evening hours and take frequent breaks, she says.

The city of South Bend has opened cooling centers to provide relief from the heat.

It’s not just humans who are feeling the heat, our four-legged friends are also at risk.

Some signs of heatstroke in pets include heavy panting, rapid heartbeat, a deep red tongue, lethargy and difficulty breathing.

Dr. Jennifer Anderson of Lincolnway Vet Clinic explains pets that are most at risk include certain breeds with short muzzles, such as boxers and pugs, as well as cats with short muzzles and pets who are old, very young, overweight or have heart or respiratory issues.

What can pet owners do to protect their dogs during this heatwave?

Keep water available at all times. Provide your dog with a cooling mat and use ice packs on their neck, inner thighs and armpits to lower their body temperature.

Ensure there is ample shade both inside and outside your home. Fans can help circulate air and keep your pet cool.

Hot pavement can feel extremely hot to a dog's paws. Test it by placing the back of your hand on the pavement; if you can't keep it there for five seconds, it's too hot for your dog's paws.

Dr. Anderson recommends walking your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when the ground is cooler, using protective booties to safeguard their paws, and opting for shaded areas or grassy areas for walks.

Leaving pets in a car, even with cracked windows, can quickly turn deadly. On an 85-degree day, temperatures inside a car can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes and 120 degrees within half an hour, putting dogs and cats at risk of heatstroke. Dr. Anderson says never leave pets in a car during warm weather, even briefly. She says always leave your pet at home if you cannot take them with you when you leave the car.

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