We all know that awful feeling of being too hot, struggling to get cool and being restless because we just can’t get comfortable. Our pets can also feel this way during the warmer summer months and because they can’t tell us when they’re feeling this way, it’s important that we know the signs of overheating and are aware of the best ways to cool them down.
With horror stories in the news each year of dogs being left in cars on the hottest days of the year, it’s vital that we’re taking all of the necessary precautions for our pets, no matter what size, breed or type.
Below you’ll find plenty of tips to make sure your pet is chilled this summer.
Understanding your pet
Being familiar with your pet’s characteristics will help you to identify if they are getting too warm:
- Panting: Dogs will pant frequently while cats will only pant if they are really warm. Both will do this to regulate their temperature but excessive, heavy panting should be monitored as it could indicate that they’re overheating.
- Licking: Cats will often clean themselves more frequently during warmer weather and they’re doing this because their saliva helps to cool them down as it evaporates off their fur.
- Paws: Pets will sweat through their paws, so if they’re leaving wet paw prints behind this means they’re particularly hot and need cooling down.
- Know the breed: Some pet breeds will be more susceptible to overheating than others. Brachycephalic cats (e.g. Persians) and dogs (e.g. Pugs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs) can often find it difficult to pant effectively.
- Age and wellbeing: Any cats or dogs that are elderly, overweight or suffering from medical conditions (particularly lung- and heart-related) should be monitored closely during hot weather.
Making your home cool
If it is particularly hot outside, it’s best to keep your pet indoors and out of the direct sunlight, especially during the middle of the day. There are a number of ways to make your indoor space as cool as possible:
- Closing curtains and blinds: As beautiful as the sun is, blocking this out with curtains and blinds will help to keep rooms much cooler.
- Open windows: Create as much of a natural breeze as you can in your home by opening all of the windows.
- Install fans: To help add to these breezes and to circulate the air in your home, place fans in the rooms that your pets have access to. Try to leave some space in front of the fans too so your pets can take their afternoon naps there.
- Floor space: Try to keep the floors clear of rugs etc., especially if you have tiled or wooden floors. These will be naturally cooler than carpets, which will be a welcome relief for a warm dog or moggie.
- Fresh water: Ensure there’s always fresh drinking water available to your pet at all times. Try to place their water bowl somewhere that will prevent it getting knocked over while you’re out. A double dinner set on a stand is perfect for dogs as is a drinking fountain for cats.
- Frozen water: A great way to provide a cooling agent for your pet is to put a bottle of water in the freezer. Then, wrap it in a towel and place it next to your furry friend’s bed or cage – avoid putting it in their sleeping areas as it could get too cold for them.
Exercising pets in hot weather
If it’s going to be a warm day, the ideal time for pets to be exercised is early in the morning or late in the evening. Imagine going for a 10-mile hike wrapped up in your winter coat when it’s 20°C (68°F) outside – it wouldn’t be pleasant, and it won’t be for your pet either.
You also need to take care in areas where your dog is walking on certain surfaces, e.g. asphalt or concrete as this can burn their feet. For example, when it’s 25°C (77°F) outside, the heat of asphalt can be as much as 52°C (125°F). If you are concerned about this, place the back of your hand on the surface first to see if it’s OK for your pet’s delicate paws.
Giving your pet a haircut
A lot of animals will feel better for having their hair cut ready for summer, however, it’s not beneficial for all animals and breeds, so always check this first.
Because of how they’ve evolved, experts have now determined that their long fur actually helps to keep them cooler during warm weather. It prevents the UV rays from penetrating their skin, which means shaving off too much fur could leave them exposed to the harms of these rays, causing sunburn and the risk of skin cancer. Sun cream is available for pets and is beneficial, especially for light-coloured breeds and should be used on delicate places such as the nose and ears.
That said, some breeds will benefit from having their hair cut and these tend to be ones that are traditionally found in cool habitats, e.g. Huskies. Trimming their fur will help to keep them cooler, so it is advised during warmer weather.
Equally, if there’s any matted fur on your pet this won’t work in the same way as their clean fur will, thus adding to their temperature. So, it’s important to groom pets regularly to get rid of any tangles or loose fur.
Cats don’t tend to like water so always tread carefully when looking at using water to cool them down! Sometimes, creating a water feature for them to play with is a way they’ll get their paws wet without minding (one of our team members finds a running tap works a treat)! Or, try a damp towel – once they get used to this they may like it but as all cat owners will know…there’s no guarantee!
Warning: Never use freezing cold water to cool pets down, it should just be cool.
If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, they’ll display some of the following symptoms: diarrhoea, vomiting, lack of coordination, lethargy, red gums/tongue, a rapid pulse, excess salivation and heavy panting.
If your pet has any of these symptoms, try to reduce their temperature by covering them in cool water (or using a towel soaked in cold water) and try to get them to take sips of water, until their breathing slows back down. Call your vet to get their advice and if you’re concerned, take them straight to the vets as heatstroke can be fatal.
Protecting your pet in summer
The heat and the sun aren’t the only things that we need to be careful of during the summer months as we also need to look out for harmful things that appear in our gardens too.
- Toxic plants: There are a number of plants that can prove fatal to pets, including yew, castor oil bush, cherry laurel, laburnum, lilies and daffodils. If you do have any of these in your garden, make sure these are in an area that your pet can’t access. Always research new plants if you’re planting anything in your garden too.
- Harmful chemicals: Bug sprays, weed killers, slug pellets and many other herbicides and pesticides can be harmful to pets. Use chemicals that are deemed safe for pets, or keep pets away from the treated area until it’s safe.
- Burning barbecues: Keep pets away from lit barbecues, any hot ash or burning embers until they’ve cooled down as these could cause severe burns. Keep any lighter fluids out of their reach too!
- Fly strike: This is a common occurrence in rabbits during the warmer summer months and is caused by flies laying their eggs in dirty fur, which then hatch into maggots. If you notice any maggots in your rabbit’s fur, call your vet immediately. To prevent this happening, check your rabbit’s fur at least twice a day, cleaning any dirty fur with a damp cloth.