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North Carolina expert warning of the risk of heat-related illness in people and pets as temperatures soar

National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City

Thursday is expected to be the hottest day of the summer so far, with a feels-like temperature as high as 105°, and a North Carolina expert is warning of the risk of heat-related illness in people and pets.

Dr. Dan Dombrowski is the Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and he says in high heat and humidity, all mammals can, “Get hyperthermic increased temperatures and heat stress and eventually even into heat stroke if the body can't cool down fast enough.”

Pets, though, are especially vulnerable because they rely on humans to provide them with safety like shade and plenty of water.

Dombrowski says avoiding the midday heat and sun for walks is best when it’s this hot.

"So, early in the morning or late in the evening are the best times to kind of do those things you need to do,” he said, “Otherwise, middle of the day it's best to just provide them with some shelter and some water and bring them indoors if they're animals that can come indoors.”

He also says that making sure they have a cooler place to stay during the heat is important.

Dombrowski said, "Make sure that animals have shade that they can get out of that direct sun and really have the ability to rest in the shade, and keep a focus on hydration. So, you want to make sure that they have enough water available so that they can cool themselves.”

As for warning signs to watch for, he says, "A dog may be panting a lot. It may be a little slower, a little less responsive, less active. As the temperature goes up in the body, those symptoms or signs get into more confusion and things that are more their mental state in their neurologic systems.”

"Things like vomiting can be a sign of overheating as well, and sort of leading into those heat stroke episodes,” he added.

Dombrowski says a pet exhibiting these signs warrants an emergency trip to the veterinarian.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.