Care for animals and birds in the heat wave

May 27, 2016
Sheema Khan

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In a tragic incident, a camel reportedly killed its owner after being left in high temperatures with its legs tied up all day. This happened in the Indian state of Rajasthan last week during a record-breaking heat wave that saw temperatures reaching 43 degrees Celsius. The owner had forgotten to untie his camel during the day, and suddenly remembered after many hours. When he went out to untie the camel, it attacked him, picking him up by the neck and throwing him in the ground. The camel also chewed the owner’s body and severed his head in the process.

Last year, southern Pakistan was struck by a severe heat wave. The temperatures went to as high as 44 degrees Celsius, causing deaths of almost 2,000 people from dehydration and heatstroke. Although no official statistics exist, but there were many reports on the deaths of animals in the zoo and even birds, in Karachi. Because there is no number to tell how many animals died in the zoo and anywhere in the city, is it safe to say that this matter has been ignored?

This time, meteorologists have predicted a much more intense heat wave to hit Karachi than last year. To escape the repetition of last year’s chaos, over 300 graves have already been dug. When the heat wave struck in 2015, hospitals, morgues and graveyards in the city were overwhelmed, and drug addicts, day labourers and the elderly were the biggest victims of the searing heat. The Edhi morgue ran out of freezer space after about 650 bodies were brought in the space of a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in sweltering heat. This year, 200 first response centres have been set up, offering basic heat-stroke treatment to stabilize patients. There are also 700 makeshift relief centres.


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But where are the trees? Where is the shade? We’ve still not gotten over cutting down trees in the city, knowing that we need them. It hasn’t rained properly for the longest time. And why should it when we come in nature’s way by making trees vanish? But as it is being said in the news, Karachi is prepping up for emergencies. And back to the point: the city is only concerned about saving humans, supposedly, whereas animals are still not being thought of. Many animals and birds take refuge under the trees. By chopping them, their homes are being destroyed. As for the zoo authorities, animals often die there even without the heat wave. Negligence is the main problem. And the fact that when a person acts in an unacceptable way, the easiest way to tell him/her off is by calling the person a ‘jaanwar’. Or the most famous taglines ‘jaanwar mat bano’, ‘jaanwaron wali harkatein mat karo’ etc. So yes, animals are not humans, and letting them die is fine. Okay? Okay!


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But if you are concerned about saving animals and birds, then here are some things that you can do to protect them during the heat wave or high temperatures. These are for dogs, cats and birds—the most common animals found in homes and around the city. But also get in touch with a vet for a more detailed guideline regarding your animals.

For dogs:

  • Don’t leave your dog in a car. Even for some minutes. An open window or a windshield screen isn’t enough to keep the car cool.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of water. Keep it hydrated all the time. If you are leaving your dog at home alone, make sure its bowl can’t be knocked over.
  • Keep one room in your house cool and well-ventilated, so your dog can lie down there.
  • Don’t leave your dog outside all day. If you have to, please ensure it has shade and water.
  • Do not ignore signs of heatstroke. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has issued a checklist: heavy panting; plentiful salivation; rapid pulse; very red gums/tongue; lethargy; lack of coordination; reluctance or inability to rise after collapsing; vomiting; diarrhea; loss of consciousness in extreme circumstances.

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For cats:

  • Keep the house cool for your cat. Make sure the windows closed if it is hotter outside than in.
  • Let your cat choose a cool place to lie down.
  • Provide your cat with plenty of water, in various positions around the house. Cats often prefer their water to be placed away from their food.
  • Don’t worry if your cat starts panting. I panicked last year when my cat did so, but that is totally normal. Cats will pant to take on cooler air if they are particularly hot. Heavy panting could be cause for concern, however.

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For birds:

  • First things first: Shade, plenty of cool water for drinking and bathing, and air circulation will help keep a bird cool. If you don’t have air conditioning, get a fan for your bird’s room to circulate some air movement. Don’t direct a fan at the bird; rather place the fan in a window so air will move through the room.
  • Ensure that your pet birds have a way to get out of direct sunlight. If you keep your birds in outdoor flights or part-time in outdoor play areas, they should have some type of shelter from the sun, either from shade trees or from some type of enclosure over part of the flight.
  • For birds that are not your pets, please please please fill a bowl with water and another with any kinds of seeds that birds like, and keep these bowls in the open at a certain height.
  • Birds love trees and plants. Do not cut them. You are destroying their home.


Yes, these animals are ‘Jaanwar’ in Urdu, but God’s creatures. So if you are god fearing, have mercy on them. They cannot explain verbally to you therefore one has to take extra care of them.