Australia is in the grips of a heatwave, and it’s not just humans who are at risk of suffering ill-effects – our furry companions are also feeling it.
Tuesday was the hottest day on record, with an average temperature of 40.9 degrees for the country. That’s tipped to be broken again this week as a hot week stretches ahead, culminating on Friday before a cool change brings a sigh of relief.
Hot days kill more Australians than any other form of natural disaster, and the elderly, young and people with medical conditions are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
Public health bodies advise drinking plenty of water, limiting sun exposure and just generally doing whatever possible to keep cool. If you know of someone who’s vulnerable, check in on them.
Dogs are particularly prone to feeling the heat – especially breeds like pugs and bulldogs.
While other breeds might be able to deal with an outdoor walk in the cooler ends of the day, it’s best just to keep these kinds inside.
If you do walk your dog, however, keep off the path – the hot bitumen can burn their little paws.
All animals should have constant access to fresh water and shade, and none should be left in cars or tied in the back of utes.
Much of the country is also being choked by bushfire smoke. It’s causing asthma in humans, and that’s not where it stops.
Pets with pre-existing airway conditions or heart diseases are super effected by smoke, so try and keep these guys inside.
Avoid walking dogs outside when the smoke is particularly heavy, and if you’ve got aviaries or hutches, they need to be kept well ventilated.
Water bowls or troughs should be changed regularly so they don’t breed a build-up of ash, and give your pets (birds included) regular washes.
If animals seem like they’re struggling particularly badly with the smoke, take them to the vet.
‘Exceedingly concerning’ bushfire risks
In New South Wales, the heatwave will elevate fire risk as it moves through parts of the state still battling more than 100 bushfires on Thursday.
Firefighters will confront an “enormous challenge” as temperatures soar and volatile winds whip up dangerous bushfires.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state faced significant bushfire risk on Thursday and Saturday, with the potential for “exceedingly concerning” winds to blow embers well ahead of fire fronts.
“We’re going to have a number of wind fronts escalating the fuel, the fires burning, and the potential to have spot fires and embers travelling very long distances,” she said.
“It’s going to mean very unpredictable fire conditions.”
There is a statewide total fire ban for NSW until midnight Saturday.
Victoria could record its hottest December day on Friday if centres in the north-west, such as Mildura and Swan Hill, reach a forecast 47 degrees.
A Total Fire Ban has been declared Thu 19 Dec for the Northern Country & North East & Fri 20 Dec will be Statewide. No fire can be lit in the open air or be allowed to remain alight in the open air between 00:01 on Thu, 19 Dec 2019 & 23:59 Friday, 20 December 2019. pic.twitter.com/zuqWzE494d
— CFA Updates (@CFA_Updates) December 18, 2019
“We’re expecting a lot of December records to be challenged, particularly in north-west/north-central Victoria. Some parts of north-west Victoria may get very close to records for any time of the year,” Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Dr Blair Trewin said.
Mildura is forecast to swelter through three consecutive days of 45 degrees and above.
“That’s only happened once before, in 1939, so it is certainly a very significant heatwave, particularly for December,” he said.
There will be total fire bans across much of Victoria on Thursday, extending to the whole state later in the week.