Coping with Climate Change

Extreme heat in the West, humidity and rain every day in the East. What does it mean for our pets? Pyrs with their shaggy double coats are insulated to some extent from extreme temperatures. But it's obvious from just observing them that they prefer colder weather, usually temperatures that humans consider frigid. Keeping dogs comfortable during warmer weather requires vigilence on the part of owners.

  • Access to air conditioning and fans—ideally a combination of both make the heat more tolerable
  • Limiting activity to early morning or late night
  • Providing ice chips and frozen kongs
  • Using cooling mats
  • Wading in kiddie swimming pools
  • Lying in the dirt or excavating holes to lie in

Most of us can make our dogs comfortable now. But beyond this, what's next due to the possible long-term effects of climate change?

As pet ownership increases in developing countries, especially China, and pet foods trend towards a higher content of meat, pet ownership can compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices. Some experts believe reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits, could considerably reduce these impacts.

Mosquitoes are the primary transmitters of heartworm, carrying them from other dogs, wolves, or coyotes. Lyme disease, which originated in the Northeast, is now spreading westward. Other tick-borne diseases like anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, which cause anemia and allergies, are on the rise. Longer summers and higher temperatures lengthen the breeding season for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. At the same time, wetter months leave more standing pools of stagnant water—perfect breeding grounds for insects. Both effects contribute to a spike in insects and the diseases they carry. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts have a disproportionate impact on animal health, leaving domesticated animals and wild anmals at risk. Because the climate is not only warming northward but shifting also from wet to dry and vice versa, disease-causing parasites, pathogens, and the animals that carry them are also on the move.

The direct effects of heat can be staggering, especially to dogs. As more of the U.S. is exposed to increasing temperatures, owners once unaware of the very real risk of heat stroke for their pets, may confront crises they’re not equipped to deal with. Both the long- and short-term effects of climate change mean increased human migration as sea levels rise, forest fires claim more land and humans are displaced. When humans move, many animals are left behind. An increasingly transient mass of humanity does not bode well for pets.

Though your pets may seem safe inside your home, many more animals are at greater risk than ever before. Do your part to ease the risk of serious disease, trauma, and death by paying attention to how your area’s climate is changing and if you are able, contribute to the organizations who work to mitigate these risks.