As temperatures reach uncomfortably high levels, pets are likely to struggle with the heat. Here’s how to keep them safe during the heatwave.
Animals kept in a cage or hutch may find it hard to escape the heat as the sun moves around the garden, so you may need to move them or create shade for them. While cats can get out and about, they often find their way into buildings such as greenhouses and sheds. If they get shut in, the risk of heatstroke is high, so always check sheds and garages for cats before you close them up at night.
For pets that are allowed outdoors, such as cats and dogs, try to provide cool, shady places for them to lie down. And make sure all pets have access to fresh water so they can stay hydrated. Providing water for pets to lie or play in can also be a great way to help them keep cool.
Other ways to help pets cope include offering cool surfaces to lie on and offering frozen treats to keep them stay comfortable and entertained. Fans and air conditioning are another great way to keep your pets cool.
The Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign has, for many years, highlighted this particular danger; however, many more dogs develop heatstroke on a hot walk. During hot weather, keep activity levels to a minimum and only take dogs for a walk at cooler times of the day.
Dog walks are usually safest in the early morning and, where possible, restricted to shady areas with access to water. If water isn’t available en route, try to take some with you. Training sessions and puzzle feeders (devices that release food once the pet has figured out the puzzle) can be a great way to tire dogs out when it’s just too hot to safely go outside.
Over 50% of dogs taken to vets with severe heatstroke die. So the advice is: if in doubt, don’t take them out.
Any pet is at risk of heatstroke in a hot car. If you are travelling with your pet, consider how you can keep them cool both during the journey and should you get stuck in traffic or break down. Keep travel to a minimum, but if you do need to transport your pet, never leave them unattended. Ensure they have water, shade and air conditioning whenever possible.
Although older and overweight pets are more at risk from heatstroke, any animal can be affected. And animals with flat faces, such as French bulldogs, flat-faced cats and rabbits are also at increased risk of heatstroke.
Early treatment is important
If your pet does develop signs of heatstroke, early treatment is key, so check on all your pets regularly in hot weather.
Initially, any pet with heatstroke will pant and breathe more rapidly. They may also become tired, stagger when they walk, or lack the energy to move. If left untreated, this can progress to diarrhoea, vomiting, fitting, collapse and loss of consciousness. At this point, the risk of death increases significantly.
Act swiftly if you think your pet is developing heatstroke. Rapid cooling is the best way to drop their body temperature. Start by moving them away from the source of the heat, bringing them into the shade and onto a cool surface. In a genuine emergency, they need to be cooled using water.
Pour water over them, any water that is available to you, whether that’s tap water, bottled water or the kid’s paddling pool. If they have lost consciousness, make sure their head is kept clear of the water.
Avoid putting anything over your pet such as wet towels, as towels can soon act as an insulator. As soon as possible, seek veterinary advice, as delays to treatment can prove deadly.
Anne Carter, Senior Lecturer in Animal Biology, Nottingham Trent University; Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor Companion Animal Epidemiology, Royal Veterinary College, and Emily J Hall, Lecturer in Veterinary Education, Royal Veterinary College