Should you Leave the AC on for your Cat or Dog?

Mother Jones DC covered the long debated topic of whether leaving the AC on for your pet is the right thing to do.  Both sides of this argument state very valid points.  These pets usually try to make themselves as flat as possible on the floor to try and beat the heat, they also can’t take off their year round fur coats.  These seem like two good enough reasons to try and make the pet you love as comfortable as they can be.  But on the other hand, round the clock AC can be quite expensive and also contributes significantly to climate change, as the New York Times recently reported.  By the year 2050, air conditioning units could account for more than 27 percent of global warming.  

So, is it necessary to keep your AC running all day for your pet?  Dr. Helen Myers, veterinarian at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center concluded that humidity is just as important as temperature, and when they both rise it is crucial to keep pets cool, comfortable and safe.  Animals cool themselves by panting, a process that exchanges warm air from their lungs for the cooler outside air, which does not work when it is excessively humid.  Thermostats should ideally be set at 78-80 degrees, an appropriate level for most pets.  Basements are typically cooler than the rest of the house, so if your basement is a suitable environment for your pet, have them spend more time down there during a heat wave.  Access to fresh water is also important to prevent dehydration.  

Cats are usually more likely to manage their activity so as not to combine heat and muscle activity.  Elderly, overweight pets and those with heart or lung diseases should be carefully watched, as they are highly susceptible to heat stroke. Pets with short muzzles like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats are at a higher risk of becoming overheated because they cannot effectively pant. These pets are the best candidates for round the clock AC.

Kimberly May, a veterinarian and spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medicine Association, added that not every pet is the same it is important to observe the habit of your pet and adjust to their particular needs.  For example, if your pet always hangs out by the AC vent it might be smart to keep it on, but if you see the dog sitting in the sunlight, you might have a little more leeway.  As for the argument that the ancestors of these pets survived fine without AC, should not be heeded.  We have domesticated these animals changing their lifestyles and diets among many other things.

Here are a few final tips.You can put ice in your pet’s water bowl, if they are comfortable with it.  Or a more pricey option is a cooling pad sold at most pet stores and on the internet.  You should walk your dog early in the morning or evening and keep the walks short.  Avoid taking your dog on a run, because they will keep going even if they are overheating.

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