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  • Kadiri Praveen Kumar

Use Science To Keep Your Pets Cool During A Heatwave

(GrrlScientist, 2019)

Baby, it’s hot outside, and considering that climate change is intensifying, it’s only going to get hotter -- and longer. So how can you keep your pets and other animals under your care cool in this heat?

Unless you live in a news-free zone, you already know it’s exceptionally hot nearly everywhere in the northern hemisphere. But unlike many homes in the United States, most houses and apartments in Europe are not equipped with air conditioning, and they typically are designed to capture and retain heat. So summer heat can quickly become a crisis throughout much of Europe, where all-time record hot temperatures are now being reported. Although the Nordic countries, where I currently reside, are luckier than much of the rest of Europe, they are also experiencing record heat. For example, France (42.6C), Germany (41.5C), Belgium (40.6C) and the Netherlands (39.4C), are all considerably hotter than Norway (35.6C) and Sweden (34.8).

Nevertheless, excessive heat and humidity are really dangerous and it’s enough to make a person physically ill, even in Nordic countries. But what about our furry, feathery, scaly, or finny pets? What can we do to help them survive these increasingly common, increasingly dangerous heat waves?

Overheating is a physiological and medical crisis

People and other animals show a number of symptoms when their bodies overheat, including confusion, agitation, and lethargy. In extreme cases, seizures, vomiting and bloody diarrhea occur. This is because the brain, which controls many physiological functions, is most vulnerable and most sensitive to overheating. When these symptoms manifest, it’s critically important to immediately seek medical help to reduce body temperature to avoid permanent brain damage or even death.

Other organs and organ systems are also vulnerable to overheating. Take, for example, the circulatory system. As the core body temperature rises, the hypothalamus (a small region in the middle of the brain) redirects blood flow to the skin to dump excess heat. This causes the skin to redden as the hot blood collects there, and this places a strain on the heart to maintain its normal output. At the same time, to reduce their core body temperature, many animals either sweat or pant and this results in rapid dehydration which further enhances the loss of blood volume. This places even more strain on the heart.


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