Right now, Western North America is experiencing an ongoing heatwave with record-breaking temperatures, and it’s not just humans struggling to cope. It’s getting hot in here—but remedying that by removing various items of clothing isn’t an option for local wildlife or for most of our pets. Here are some ways you can help animals in your area survive these scalding summer days.
Put out water
According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), “having convenient supplies of clean water can make a huge difference to the survival of local wild species such as birds, butterflies, and small mammals, during times of extreme heat and drought.”
Ensuring that the local critters in your neighborhood have access to clean water doesn’t mean using water excessively, but instead, keeping the water in your birdbath clean and fresh. If you don’t have a birdbath at the moment, you can simply leave out a fresh bowl of water in the backyard.
You can set up a drip jug near the birdbath to allow water to fall into the pool of water that is already there. The watery sound of the drops falling into the bath will attract birds and let them know that the water is there.
For the animals that can’t reach the birdbath, like hedgehogs, setting up small bowls of water is the best strategy. If all your bowls are human-sized, then the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests that you place a stick or stone in them so that any critter can easily climb its way out of the bowl after it refreshes itself.
Lastly, maintaining your own garden will also help all types of creatures by providing much-needed shade as well as moist soil for worms and insects.
Helping wildlife with heat stress
When some animals get overheated and dehydrated, they display many of the same symptoms that we do, such as confusion, loss of balance, and collapse. If you see any critters acting strangely or not in their usual places (for instance, an animal that you normally see in the trees is suddenly found wandering on the ground), there is a chance that they are suffering from heat stress.
If you don’t feel equipped or comfortable aiding any wild animals when they’re in this state, contact animal services or your local veterinarians instead. If you do feel like you want to help them yourself, then consider wrapping the animal in a towel and placing it in a cardboard box. Make sure you keep the animal in a cool and safe area and that it has water to drink. Dampening the towel or spritzing it gently with mist will also help cool down the overheated animal. If you think that the animal needs medical attention, then cool down your car first, and make sure it’s quiet in there to keep the animal calm.
Protecting your pets
Our pets will likely be more comfortable than animals who are facing the heat outside, but there are still some areas of concern. One of these is the effect of hot pavement on your pets’ paws. This is especially worrying for dogs, who may burn themselves on hot asphalt. To check if the pavement is alright for your dog, place the back of your hand on the ground. If it’s uncomfortable for you, then it’s too hot for your dog.
During days of extreme heat, try to walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening, and try to avoid concrete. If you live in an area that doesn’t have much green space, or if your own demanding schedule prevents you from changing up your walking times, then invest in little booties to protect your pet’s paws from getting burnt. They might not be a huge fan of them for a while, but adjusting to booties is a much better fate than painfully burned paws.
If the temperature is way too hot, then it may be best to skip the walk and keep your pets cool and hydrated indoors.