Pets and Extreme Weather

Pets & Heat
Houston’s climate is classified as humid subtropical. We have warm weather for the majority of the year with occasional cold snaps in the winter months. The summer can be blistering hot. We often see heat advisories in June through September with temperatures rising well into the upper 90‘s and into the triple digits. Summer is a time for both you and your pet to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors, but along with the fun, the season also offers up situations that can endanger your pet. By taking precautions, you can decrease the chance that disaster will happen.

The Humane Society of the United States offers the following safety tips for pet owners to keep their pets safe and comfortable in the heat.

Never Leave Your Pet in the Car
During warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if parked in the shade and with the windows partially open. This can be detrimental for pets left in a car. Pets who are left in hot cars, even for the briefest amount of time, can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, and can potentially die.

Dogs and cats can't sweat like humans and can only let off heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. You may think you’ll “just be a minute” or that it is “nice outside/not that hot”. Don’t take the risk. When you are out and about, play it safe and leave pets at home during the hot months of the year. In Houston, that is the majority of the time.

If you do happen to see a pet in a hot car alone, alert the management of the store where the car is parked. If the owner does not return promptly and/or cannot be located, call BARC, local animal control or the police department immediately.

Do Not Put Your Pet In the Back of a Pick-up Truck
It is extremely dangerous, and in some states illegal, to drive with a dog in the back of a pick-up truck. Not only can debris, low hanging branches and accidents cause serious injury, but a dog may be thrown into traffic if the driver suddenly hits the brakes, swerves, or is hit by another car. The best and safest place for dogs to travel is either inside a car or truck - either in a crate or with a seatbelt harness attached.

Fertilizers and Toxic Plants
Warm weather is a great time to garden and work in the yard. Beware that plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides can be poisonous and often fatal if your pet eats them.

There are more than 700 plants that can poisonous or toxic to pets. Some of them are very ordinary and abundant in Houston including Oleander, Sago Palms and Lilies. Be informed: click here to access a pdf provided by the Humane Society of the United States that outlines potentially harmful plants.

Pets & Swimming Pools
Some pets love to swim and it can be a fun activity to swim with your dog. However, pools can be deadly if your pet for some reason cannot get out and becomes exhausted. Make sure your pet is supervised around swimming pools and keep them from accessing the pool freely.

Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water and a nice shady area for your pets while they're enjoying the outdoors so they can stay cool.

Exercising With Pets in the Heat
Just like humans, pets need exercise even when it is hot. Special care needs to be taken with older dogs, short-nosed dogs, and those with thick coats. On very hot days, exercise in early morning or evening hours when it is cooler. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws. Pets can get sunburned too, and your pet may require sunscreen on their noses and ear tips. Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are especially susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very serious conditions and could quickly result in death. Be aware of the signs of heat stress: heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.

If your pet does become overheated, you need to immediately lower their body temperature. Move your pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water over their entire body to gradually lower the core body temperature. Apply cold towels or ice packs to your pet's head, neck, and chest only. Let your pet drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes. Most importantly, get them to a veterinarian immediately.

4th of July Safety Tips
Loud noises and crowds, in addition to the heat, can be stressful, scary and dangerous for pets. For your pet's well being, leave them home. Be especially aware of these threats during holidays, such as the 4th of July. Pets often become frightened and frantic by the noise and commotion of Independence Day. If you are going to be out, plan ahead. Do not leave your pets outside and unattended during this time - even if you have a fenced in yard. Leave them inside in a quiet area. Sometimes it helps to leave a TV or radio on quietly to keep them company. Above all, make sure your pet is licensed and that all ID tags are up to date in case they do get out.

Hurricane Preparedness
Our pets are an integral part of the family and ensuring that we include them in planning strategies for emergencies is important. Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico puts the city at an especially high risk for hurricanes. You and your pets’ survival in an emergency such as a hurricane, tornado, flood or other disaster largely depends on whether or not you plan for emergencies before disaster strikes.

Hurricanes are a fact of life in Houston. Don't forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan. Be prepared. Have a pet plan in place and a pet disaster emergency kit ready to go. In case of an emergency evacuation, this will minimize stress and chaos for both you and your pet.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), offers the following tips on building a pet hurricane/emergency preparedness plan:

Before a Hurricane/Emergency

  • Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
  • Have a current photograph
  • Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
  • Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand in and turn around.
  • Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.

During a Hurricane/Emergency

  • Animals brought to an evacuation center that accepts pets are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
  • Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. If you remain home in the event of a hurricane bring pets indoors well in advance of the storm - reassure them often and remain calm. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
  • Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, anxiety from emergency situations can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
  • Evacuation centers that accept pets will be filled on first come, first served basis. Call ahead to determine availability.
  • Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes. Feed the animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
  • In the event of an emergency, you may have to take your birds with you. Talk with your veterinarian about special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given. Make sure that the bird is caged and the cage is covered by a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.

After a Hurricane/Emergency

  • Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home – often, familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Be especially careful of downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris that can all pose a serious threat for animals after a disaster.
  • If your pet became lost during a storm or a disaster, contact BARC and local animal control to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Click here to search lost pets. Make sure you have a picture of your pet.
  • After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior.

Your pet emergency kit should include the following items

  • Proper identification including immunization records and your contact info
  • Newspapers/paper towels
  • Ample supply of food (wet/dry), water, treats and plastic feeding bowls
  • Secure carrier/cage with bedding
  • Medications
  • Muzzle, collar, leash
  • Toy/chew toy/blanket

Useful links:

Cold Weather Precautions
Houston occasionally experiences freezes and significant cold snaps. During these times, you can help your pets remain happy and healthy by following these simple guidelines.

  • Don't leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. Regardless of the season; shorthaired, very young, or old dogs and all cats should never be left outside without supervision. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
  • No matter what the temperature, wind-chill can threaten a pet's life. A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog is an outdoor dog, however, he/she must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
  • Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
  • Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, which may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
  • The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife, or your family.
  • Always have a winter disaster plan in place for you, your family and your pets.

BARC Information

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Houston, TX 77026
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