Thank you for writing the Sunday column. It's always informative and helpful to all of us "pet-people."
It's hot, but what is too hot for parrots?
Do I leave them on the porch during the hottest time of the day or is it better to bring them into the air conditioning? If left outside would a fan be beneficial or not? Would it help the birds tolerate the heat if I mist them with a fine mist of water? Every afternoon during these "dog days of summer" I make sure the dog is in the air conditioning but I wonder what's the right thing to do for the parrots. They are never in the direct sunlight this time of year as I think that would kill them. Yet, I see wild birds, doves in particular, with a wing stretched out, looking all comfy and like they need a margarita and beach umbrella, taking naps on the deck in the heat of the day with the hot sun shining directly on them. What's up with that? Please advise. MD
Birds do fine outside in the heat if they are not in the direct sun. Yes to all of your questions: misting, fan, shade, breeze, etc. Provide them a large water bowl for bathing. Give them a cool rinse; it is good for their feathers and helps them keep cool. The birds that are out stretching their wings are thermoregulating. Keeping their wings away from their body to allow air to cool themselves off.
Hot weather can be very dangerous to all pets, not just birds. If any animal is exposed to direct sun with no access to shade it will rapidly overheat, dehydrate and die. Even pets housed indoors can succumb to heat exhaustion if they do not have adequate ventilation.
Certain pets, like rabbits, chinchillas and pot-bellied pigs, are extremely sensitive to heat stress. For example, in the northern parts of the country, rabbits can be housed outdoors all year long. They handle the cold weather very well as long as they are not exposed to a draft or allowed to get wet. However, if the outdoor temperature rises above 90 degrees, they can potentially die from heat stress in a matter of hours.
Hot days coupled with high humidity (increased heat index) can be a lethal combination. Pets in poor health, obese animals, and those that have recently been stressed, such as pets that have had surgery, are more susceptible to the dangers of heat stress.
Dogs (as well as other animals) that live outside every day get acclimated to the heat and don't seem to show the same discomfort that an indoor dog may feel. If an outdoor pet has access to shade, ventilation and plenty of fresh water it should be fine.
If a pet gets accidentally overheated you can help by rinsing it off with cool water. If it is displaying symptoms of heat stress such as rapid breathing or panting, fast heartbeat, weakness or fainting, it should be taken to your veterinarian immediately.
Dr. Doug Mader is an ABVP board certified veterinary specialist practicing in the Keys. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.