Summer is nearly upon us, so now is the time to start thinking about how to keep your pets comfortable as the weather heats up. Our pets are more susceptible to temperature changes than us humans and when the mercury starts to rise above 30⁰C, owners can begin to see some real changes in their pets.
The classic symptoms of an overheating pet include;
- Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Elevated body temperature
- Weakness or even collapse
- Vomiting and bloody diarrhoea
While our pets do have some in built features to help them cool down and deal with the hot weather, it’s very different to how humans cool down.
Dogs and cats actually do sweat, but not in the same way people do and it is not their primary method of cooling down. For dogs, their primary way of cooling down is by panting while sweating is their secondary method. In dogs, sweat is secreted by glands in their paws pads and nose, hence the wet nose and wet paw prints on the floor on a hot day.
Cats on the other hand, aren’t too bothered by the heat, and choose to cool down by sweating through their paw pads or dispensing their body heat by stretching out. Cats will only pant as a last resort.
As owners, there are many things that we can do to help our pets though the rising temperatures. Check out our 9 top tips below on how you can help your pets.
1. Provide plenty of water
Pets can become dehydrated very quickly, so make sure that they have access to plenty of fresh, clean water. If your pet spends time both indoors and outdoors, ensure that they have plenty of water available in both locations and provide multiple water bowls in case one gets tipped over. An automatic water bowl is another option that will ensure that fresh water is available whenever it is needed. Keeping the water in a shaded location will help to keep it cooler and make it more refreshing. Even placing some ice cubes in their water bowl can be an added pick-me-up.
Automatic Water Bowl
2. Provide shelter from the sun
If your pet is outdoors, make sure that they have a shady place where they can get out of the sun, better still allow them to join you inside where it is hopefully even cooler. Even if your dog has a kennel outside, keep it in a shaded place to make the most of the relief they can get from their shelter.
Short-nosed breeds such as Pugs and Persians are more susceptible to heat stroke as they have more difficulty with body temperature regulation. These breeds along with overweight, elderly and very young pets or those with heart or lung disease should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
3. Provide cooling aids
Provide your pet with some cooling aids such as;
- A small paddling pool for your dog
- Freeze large ice blocks for your dog to lick
- Cold, wet towels on the floor for your pets to lay on
- A wet towel draped over part of your pets cage, to help cool down the surrounding air/breeze.
- Freeze a bottle of water, wrap in a towel and put in the cage for rabbits and guinea pigs to lay up against.
4. Minimise the exercise
On a warm day keep the exercise to a minimum or try to exercise early in the day before the heat sets in. If you chose to take your dog for a walk later in the day, wait until after sundown as the pavement can hold heat and be very hot on their paws. Be sure to carry a portable pet water bottle with you for on the go hydration.
5. Don’t leave them in the car
We all know not to leave children in a car unattended, especially on a hot day and the same goes for pets. The temperature in a car can climb alarmingly fast. It may be a comfortable 24⁰C outside, but after 10 minutes the interior of the car is reaching 38⁰C and 50⁰C after just 30 minutes. Driverknowledgetests explains that the core temperature of a pet left in a hot car will increase if they are unable to lose the heat quickly enough. This is especially concerning for dogs and cats as they don’t sweat profusely and instead lose heat by panting. With many car interiors being black, heat is absorbed more quickly and surfaces such as the dash can be even as much as 20⁰C hotter than the ambient temperature. This means that the risk of burns from contacting the surfaces inside the car is a real possibility.
6. Supervise around water
Not all pets are good swimmers, so never leave them unsupervised around a pool. If your dog swims in a pool, be sure to rinse after swimming to remove any chlorine or salt from his fur. Also, do not allow pets to drink pool water as it contains chemicals that can be harmful to their health. If you plan on taking your dog out on a boat, make sure that they wear a floatation device.
7. Increase the grooming
Brush your pets more regularly to remove excess fur and increase air flow to the skin or take your dog to a groomer for a trim. Having a bit less fur can really help your pets to feel a lot cooler.
8. Be aware of summer poisons
With the warm weather comes tiki torches and insect repellents, such as sprays, coils and citronella candles. Keep all of these items out of your pets reach as they can be harmful if ingested. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous substance call your vegetarian or the animalpoisons hotline on 1300 TOX PET (For Australian residents).
9. Let them rest
The heat can really be draining on the energy levels and make pets feel grumpy, so let them rest if that’s what they want to do. Give them a cool, comfy spot to rest and remind the kids to leave them alone while they rest.
Enjoy the summer months with your pets by your side and do your best to keep cool. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, be sure to take your pet to a veterinary clinic for immediate medical attention. Severe cases may result in the need for IV fluids or medications.
Click for details on looking after your pets through the winter months.