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Air Conditioning: Should You Leave It on for Your Pet?

Thermostats don't lie: it's hot! Thankfully the modern marvel of air conditioning helps us beat the summer heat and keep our pets cool as well. But what about when we leave the house? Should the AC be left on for your pet while you're out and about?

Photograph by Alamy

According to Mother Jones, this is an issue that has the animal lovers of the world all riled up. One side says it is unfair to leave our fluffy friends at home sans AC during heat waves, especially when they are stuck in fur coats. The other side argues that cats and dogs were roaming the Earth for thousands of years in the heat before we came along and put them indoors. Additionally, they point out that running your AC full time for your animal could be hurting the environment more than helping your pet.

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Instead of ping-ponging between the two sides, Mother Jones decided to contact a professional to find the answer. Dr. Helen Myers of the ASPCA told the news organization that it isn't the heat that is the big problem for pets, but the humidity. Humidity mixed with heat prevents panting -- an animal's natural cooling system -- from working effectively. Dr. Myers suggests leaving fans on to keep the air circulating while you are away, or leaving your AC set around 78-80 degrees, a preferred temperature for pets. It is also important to keep all water bowls full to prevent dehydration.

Dr. Myers also said that dogs usually require cooling more than cats, because canines create more heat with muscle activity. Owners of obese, ill or elderly animals should also be extra careful, since these animals are more susceptible to heat stroke.

Mother Jones also asked American Veterinary Medicine Association's Dr. Kimberly May for her input. Dr. May added that the AC needs of each pet vary individually. She suggests keeping an eye on your pet's behavior while the AC is on. If you find your furry friends constantly by the vent, it is probably best to leave it on for them if you are gone for long periods.

Overall, it comes down to learning your pet's individual needs and finding the chill factor to match. As May pointed out, since we domesticated the animals, we also assisted in their loss of natural responses to things like extreme heat. So we owe it to our little guys to make sure that this isn't a bummer summer for them.

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