Today’s Solutions: July 21, 2024


Right now, much of Europe and North America are experiencing ongoing heatwaves with record-breaking temperatures.  It’s not just humans that are struggling to cope. Yes, it’s getting hot in here—but taking off a sweater, jacket or shirt 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. Instead, focus on keeping the water in your birdbath clean and fresh. If you don’t have a birdbath, simply leaving a fresh bowl of water out in the backyard can make all the difference.

You can even 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 there’s water available.

For the animals that can’t reach the heights of a birdbath (like hedgehogs and bunnies) setting up small bowls of water at ground level is the best strategy. If all your bowls are human-sized, then the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests placing a stick or stone to the bowl so that any critter can easily climb its way out after it refreshes itself.

Lastly, maintaining your own vibrant garden helps all types of creatures by providing much-needed shade as well as moist soil, great for worms and insects and all the critters that feast on them.

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 seeming out of place (for instance, an animal that you normally see in the trees is suddenly wandering on the ground), there is a chance that they are suffering from heat stress.

If you’re not equipped or comfortable aiding a wild animal in this state, contact animal services or your local veterinarian instead. If you do feel up to helping them yourself, consider carefully wrapping the animal in a towel and placing it in a cardboard box. Make sure you keep it in a cool and safe area and that it has water to drink. Dampening a towel or spritzing the animal gently with mist will also help it cool down. If you think the animal needs medical attention, it’s best to call in the experts.

Protecting your pets

Our pets will likely fare better than wild animals facing the heat outside, but might still be at risk if we’re not careful. Think for example about the effect of hot pavement on your pets’ paws. Especially worrying for dogs, it is easy enough to burn the pads of their paws on hot asphalt. To check if the pavement is ok for your pet to step on without harm, lay your hand on the ground. If it’s uncomfortable for you, then it’s probably too hot for your fur friend too.

During days of extreme heat, aim for early morning or late in evening walks, and try to avoid dark hard surfaces like pavement or concrete. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of green space, or if your demanding schedule prevents a change up to walking times, invest in little booties to protect your pet’s paws from harm. They may look ridiculous or hate the strange shoes at first, but adjusting to booties is much better than painfully burned paws!

Final tip: If the temperature is way too hot for you to handle being outside, it may even be best to skip the walk and keep your pets cool and hydrated indoors.  Potty pads anyone?

(an earlier version of this article ran on June 17, 2022, but it’s just as relevant today!)
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