With the summer heat in Australia we need to be mindful of our pets. It’s not just about keeping them comfortable (although that’s a good idea too), it’s about making sure they have adequate shade, water and ventilation to be safe and healthy.
Animals are just as sensitive to the heat as we are, maybe even more in some cases as their body temperature is naturally higher than humans, small animals, like birds and rabbits are especially heat sensitive, yet pets are often left outside in the heat of the day, and they may be suffering through.
In the wild animals have lots of tricks to get out of the heat (just like we do), only instead of air conditioning, fans and ice water, they will dig a hole, get underground, find a cave or stretch out under a shady tree. Stuck in the yard or their cage they may not always be in a situation where they can get to those naturally cooling things.
It’s our responsibility to look out for signs of heat stress in our pets and provide adequate ways for them to beat the heat.
Know your pet’s sensitivity.
Your pet may be more at risk in the heat if it:
• Is very young, so a puppy or kitten
• Has a flat snout (brachycephalic breeds), like a pug or bulldog, Persian cat or British/exotic shorthaired cat.
• Has a thick coat for cold conditions, like Siberian huskies and chow chows
• Is elderly
• Is obese/overweight
• Is small, like a rabbit, guinea pig or bird
Know the signs
Heat stroke happens very quickly and can continue to worsen even when you have provided your pet with a cool environment. Be sure to seek help for your pet as soon as you notice any signs of heat stress.
• Heavy panting
• Excessive drooling
• Tongue and gums that are bright red (or as the situation worsens, purple or grey)
• Difficulty breathing
• Confusion, dizziness
• Vomiting or diarrhoea
How to help
1. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water for your pet. You may need to consider multiple water points in case one is finished or is spilled. You will need to change your pet’s water daily, even if it looks fresh, make sure you throw out what hasn’t been used and top up with new water. Also be sure to scrub out the water containers regularly to prevent bacteria build up.
2. Make sure your pet has a shady, well ventilated place to rest. Trees, a hedge, a sail made from a sack, it really doesn’t matter what the shade is made from as long as they have somewhere constant they can go to. You also need to make sure there is good ventilation. Pets cools themselves with cool air, so you need to have a shady spot that also has some air moving, so a box or a hard corner won’t do the trick.
3. Bring your pet indoors with you if it’s too hot outside. If you are not at home make sure your pet is in a cool room; a hot, locked up house can be more dangerous for your pet than the outside.
4. Run cool water over them, especially their head, chest and stomach but make sure the water is moving, so the heat can run off with the water. If you use cool, damp towels make sure you change them frequently so they stay cool and don’t absorb the pet’s heat and lock it on them.
5. Take your pet to the vet immediately if you believe they are not cooling down with treatment.
Shaving or trimming your pet’s coat
Fur is as good as protecting from heat as it is from cold. Trimming or shaving your pet can actually make them hotter.
Wetting down a longhaired pet
Heavy coats can become waterlogged and prevent your pet from being able to lose body heat naturally.
Leaving an animal inside a hot car or home
Locked cars and houses have no ventilation and lots of windows. Heat can build rapidly and heat stroke and organ failure can occur in a matter of minutes. Never leave your animals unattended inside unless there is adequate cooling for them.
Exercising your pet in the heat
Only walk your dog or travel with pets in the cool hours (morning and evening). Before you walk your dog place your hand on the pavement, if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot to walk your dog. Remember that while a dip in the surf might cool your pet, to get there they may need to cross scorching hot sand that can burn their paws. Always be mindful of the heat that gets absorbed and trapped in the ground.
Look out for your pet to keep them safe and happy in all kinds of weather conditions.