Few solutions for pet owners during the stressful heat wave

The risk of heat stroke loomed for animals, too. Wet towels, cool baths and icy treats helped.

Dewey, a Welsh corgi, cools off as the heat wave hit the Northwest last week. (Abigail Cooley)

Dewey, a Welsh corgi, cools off as the heat wave hit the Northwest last week. (Abigail Cooley)

EVERETT — Patti McQuinn knew her cat Kevin was in trouble when he began panting as the temperature soared inside her Everett apartment last weekend.

McQuinn, a lifelong feline owner, recognized the red flag.

As any veterinarian will tell you, open-mouthed breathing is a sign that a cat is struggling to get air.

“I knew we were going to be in for an emergency (vet) run,” McQuinn said. “Because I didn’t know how much more he could take.”

For hours, she massaged him with wet towels, enough for the moisture to break through his thick coat. She searched for hotel rooms and called kennels to see if they had a cool spot for him to stay.

But her options were few. Most businesses were closed that Saturday and Sunday. Others were fully booked.

“There’s not really anything for pets on these hot days like this,” said McQuinn, who also has a kitten named Finn. “If you have pets, you’re kind of screwed. And if you have a cat, you’re really screwed.”

McQuinn was one of many pet owners in Snohomish County who struggled to keep her animal companions cool during the recent heat wave.

Fortunately, she was able to board her cats at a kennel in Mill Creek starting on June 28, when temperatures peaked.

A hot day can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation for cats, dogs and other animals. To reduce the risk of heat stroke in pets, experts advise limiting exercise and sun exposure. Offering ample water and a damp cloth are other common suggestions.

But for those pet owners without air conditioning in their homes, the standard advice wasn’t always enough during the recent spike in temperatures.

Stacey Solemslie worried about her 17-year-old cat’s survival as the temperature inside her Mukilteo condo climbed to 92 degrees on Monday.

She followed Luke, her short-haired tabby, around with a fan and rubbed him with moist paper towels.

“Yesterday was rough,” Solemslie said on Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Please don’t die.’”

He was restless and hissed at her twice, though he’s usually well-tempered, Solemslie said.

“I didn’t think it would be this bad,” she said. “I just didn’t think that his reaction would be what it was.”

Some people took their pets for long rides in air-conditioned cars. Others brought their animals to work.

Though many of the county’s “cooling centers” were not advertised as pet-friendly, one in Bothell allowed animals.

Northshore Senior Center welcomed pets in crates or cages.

Local pet stores, too, offered some respite from the heat.

Petco at the Everett Mall set up a cooling station outside the store with a hose and a kiddie pool for dogs, a store employee said.

In Lynnwood, pet owners dropped into the PetSmart store at 18820 Highway 99 to let their animals cool off inside the air-conditioned store, an employee said.

People also temporarily boarded their cats and dogs at Everett Veterinary Hospital, which has AC.

The Progressive Animal Welfare Society saw “a staggering number of animals in need” at its small facility in Lynnwood that Monday and Tuesday, said CEO Heidi Wills.

The shelter is taking care of about 40 fledgling Caspian Terns that were rescued in South Seattle. The young seagulls, unable to fly, became so hot they jumped off a building where their colony was nesting.

“We’re doing all we can to ensure these dehydrated and injured animals get a second chance,” Wills said.

Staff at another shelter, the NOAH Center in Stanwood, struggled to care for more than 100 cats and 40 dogs in a facility without air conditioning, said center Operations Director Sara Bradshaw.

Volunteers set up a bank of industrial fans and brought in ice to cool the building and animals, Bradshaw said.

“Everyone here tried to provide some measure of comfort for the animals,” she said.

In some instances, shelter workers saw behavioral changes in animals brought on by scorching temperatures.

“We saw some dogs that normally aren’t aggressive get aggressive.” Bradshaw said. “They don’t feel good. Animals can get cranky, too, when they’re overheated, and they’re going to lash out in the only way they know how.”

Bradshaw said cities and counties were ill-prepared to assist people with animals — especially homeless people with animals — during the heat wave.

“In my city, there’s a homeless person who has kitties. They were miserable too,” she said. “There are animals on the streets that probably didn’t make it through this.”

“I think the community should come together and figure out a plan for next time. People with pets need to have options,” she added.

Snohomish pet sitter Elizabeth Clark said her 30 years of veterinary technician experience was “put to the test” when a client left her to care for two dogs and a cat in a home without air conditioning.

One of the dogs was a 16-year-old Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix. The other was a 1-year-old husky, Clark said. She is retired from the veterinary field and runs Auntie Beth’s Pet Service.

Clark offered relief in the form of frozen treats, wet towels, extra water and hose baths. She also routinely checked their body temperatures and watched for signs of dehydration.

“Emotionally, this was not an easy house-sit,” she said in an email. “I did everything in my power to ensure that the very old dog lived until owner’s return.”

Though the heat brought challenges for pet owners, it also gave them a chance to pamper their animals.

Dewey the Welsh corgi spent the recent heat wave splashing around in a kiddie pool, chasing a garden hose and lapping up doggie gelato in the shade of his Everett backyard, said his owner, Abigail Cooley.

A wet towel and a “cooling shirt,” tailored to fit his long and little body, kept him comfortable during the record-breaking temperatures, Cooley said.

Some peanut butter and bone broth ice pops helped, too.

“I was very nervous about this,” Cooley said. “I probably went a little overboard in trying to accommodate him.”

Keeping calm during fireworks

Local dogs and cats may have endured the heat, but they’ll face another challenge come nightfall.

The crackle and boom of Fourth of July fireworks can be deafening and anxiety-inducing for animals.

The American Kennel Club offers these tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable during firework celebrations:

• Keep your pet inside, away from firework shows.

• Set up a safe haven in a quiet space, away from windows, where your pet can rest. Provide a familiar crate and toys and treats for them to enjoy.

• Drown the sound with radio, TV or a fan.

• Stick around to comfort your dog. Speak in a calm, even tone and pet them with long, slow strokes. Or leave your dog with someone you trust.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods.

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