Much has been said and written about getting people to change and prepare for the worst effects of climate change. But have they considered the same things for their beloved pets? This is how you can tell who the real pet lover is: in their preparations for dealing with climate change, they have also prepared their pets.
DOGS – Here is where people who do research before buying pets get rewarded handsomely. The horrendous heat brought about by climate change is not an ordinary threat in terms of dogs suffering from heat stroke or dehydration. I recently bought two bottles of dextrous powder in order to rehydrate my dogs. Usually, dextrous powder mixed in water is the Gatorade for animals.
The other trick is my practice, usually between 11 AM to 3 PM, of putting a block of ice at least four inches square in each of the drinking dishes of all my dogs. The ice melts in about 30 to 45 minutes and the dogs can drink the cool water until 3 PM when it can be replenished once more. I picked up this practice around ten years ago; my friend Raffy Yap and I were discussing why certain matings would not result in the conception of puppies. This was most common with large breed dogs, especially those with thick coats and dark colored hairs that absorbed heat.
FISH – Most tropical fish love thirty degree temperatures. Thus, this weather is heaven as far as they are concerned. However, people keep expensive Kois, which are temperate aquatic creatures. It will be impractical for koi keepers to put in blocks of ice to cool their ponds, plus ice blocks may lead to an unnecessary spike in the water’s pH. More impractical is buying chillers, as the electricity bill will go through the roof. A cool shade, whether natural (the trees) or artificial (canvas and non-metallic roofs giving shade from 11 AM to 4 PM) would be enough preparation so that the water in the pond does not get too warm. Additional aerators will also help oxygenate the water, giving the kois an extra margin of protection.
Aquariums hit by direct sunlight will not “cook” fish and thus may not create life-threatening results. Algae buildup on the tanks triggered by strong and prolonged UV exposure, though, will surely stunt the fish’s growth. If you cannot move the tank to a safer location, cover it completely with cloth to slow down the effects of UV (ultra violet rays).
BIRDS – I have been a believer of automatic sprayers and misters for my aviary for a long time now. I bought a full length of ten meters of misters normally used by hydroponic enthusiasts and my birds enjoyed it over ten years, breeding very well even during the hot summer months. They love playing under the misters, which I keep on using a timer three to four hours a day. Humidity is one of the secrets of successful bird breeding normally provided by the forest canopy in the wild. Because Metro Manila lacks trees and normally, aviary roofs are made from GI sheets. So misters will go a long way in keeping birds healthy and continuously breeding. Friends now just have their boys and maintenance people manually spray the birds periodically. This is taxing on people and may lead to heatstroke for their bird keepers.
REPTILES – Humidity is good for certain reptiles while others don’t thrive when there is too much humidity. Saharan tortoises like the sulcatas and leopards will thrive in our climate but will need shade protection once they are done with “sunning” for the day. Iguanas will almost always retire under tree shade at the hottest time of each day. Bearded dragons will always seek heat but will need cooler shades when eating and digesting their food intake. Aldabras and Radiatas have enough water supply to insure survival because of the high dome structure of their shells.
However, I have had a mortality from direct sunlight, as too much direct sunlight will easily trigger heatstroke. Thus for reptiles, two insurance policies are necessary during the hot days: hide boxes and a steady supply of water.
Where are the pets most vulnerable to heat?Transporting pets will require planning and careful preparation. Recently, much has been said on social media about a large breed dog owner transporting a canine in the back of a pickup at approximately noontime.
We can always guess why the owner did this but we can never settle the issue of what they were thinking since transporting them in the heat, without shade (the photos were allegedly taken at noontime and past lunchtime) is a form of cruelty to animals.
The owner’s retort that the dog belongs to him or her, and s/he can very well do what s/he pleases does not really speak much for responsible pet keeping. If s/he really had no other options, s/he could have at least provided for a large block of ice in the drinking dish to accompany the dog at the back of the pick up truck. Plus a makeshift canvas roof can also go a long way in dissipating the cruel sunlight hitting the dog and harming it almost simultaneously.
Is it advisable to give dogs daily baths during these months? Not really! Shampooing that accompanies bathing eradicates essential oils the dogs need for their bodies. High frequency of bathing from once a week to three times a week would help if soap or shampoo is not used at all times but only once each week.
Keeping well-insulated shades for dogs will insure protection from the harsh realities of climate change. Because I work in construction, my secret to good insulation is using leftover waterproofing materials to line cages and kennels just below the roofing material (which normally is made of galvanized metal sheets).
Ready for climate change? I am sure everyone has made his or her own preparations but the other important question is, have we made our pets safe from climate change by understanding their situation and preparing for it?
Believe it or not, this is what makes the hobby more exciting. Everything you need to do for your beloved and faithful friends, do it today and avoid aggravation because the harsh weather conditions may lead to the tragic moment of losing pets.
Is it better for your pets during El Nino or La Nina? Be responsible and enjoy your pets! It doesn’t take much and it is fun giving your pets that tender loving care during the hot weather!
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s June 2016 issue.