Keep your pets cool this summer

Published 17 July 2013
(Photo: Marcel Grotens)

The RSPCA is urging pet owners to make sure their pets are not suffering or put at risk in the heat this summer.

Despite the usual summer warnings, the organisation says it has received calls in the last few days about dogs being left in cars.

But it's not just dogs that are in danger from the heat, with all types of pets and farm animals needing special care to see them safely through the summer months.

Many animals can't sweat through their skin in the same way as humans and only cool down by sweating through sweat glands in their feet and panting. This means pet owners need to take precautions to keep them from dehydrating, falling ill and even dying.

RSPCA chief inspector Dermot Murphy said: "It is imperative we do all we can to help our pets stay cool when temperatures soar as they have done in recent weeks.

"The furry, feathery and scaly members of the household can find the sticky weather as uncomfortable as us, so it is important that owners are diligent and take precautions to prevent the weather from causing suffering.

"Simple things like moving small animals out of direct sunlight, topping up drinking water and waiting until the cooler part of the day to walk your dog or ride your horse can make a real difference to the welfare of your animals.

"It can only take a moment to save a life."

Here are some of the RSPCA's top tips for helping animals stay happy during sunny times:

The biggest problem we see every single year are dogs left in hot cars. No matter how often we stress this message, there will always be owners who think 'it won't happen to them' especially if they only leave their dogs for a few minutes. But the temperature inside a vehicle can soar to 47 degrees within 60 minutes when the outside temperature is just 22 degrees, and it takes very little time for a dog to die in such heat. Dogs should never be left alone in a vehicle.

 A golden rule for all animals is to make sure they have a constant supply of clean, fresh drinking water. To keep cool, it's important that they can replace any water that is lost through sweating and panting, otherwise they could become dehydrated.

It is also important to keep all pets housed out of direct sunlight and ensure they can get to a cool, shady place to escape from the sun at all times of day. This includes outdoor enclosures where small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as birds, are kept. Many caged birds also enjoy being misted with clean fresh water – and it also helps to keep feathers in good condition

Fish tanks should also be kept out of direct sunlight, and their water must be kept clean, well oxygenated and algae free.

Exotic pets such as reptiles should always be kept in temperature-controlled environments anyway, but extra care should be taken to ensure thermostats and thermometers are working and that the enclosures are not placed in direct sunlight as this could affect the temperature inside.

Exercise your pet at times when it is cooler. Animals still need exercise when it's hot, but don't allow pets to exercise too much in hot weather. It is best to walk dogs early in the morning or later in the evening, when it's cooler. The same goes for riding your horse.

Protect your pet from sunburn. Animals can get sunburnt too, especially those with light coloured noses, or light coloured fur on their ears. Ask your vet for advice on pet-safe sunscreens.

Be aware of the signs of heat-stroke, which can be fatal in pets and you should do everything you can to prevent it. Signs of heat stroke in dogs include excessive panting, heavy salivation, rapid pulse, very red gums/tongue, lethargy (lack of energy), lack of co-ordination, being unable to get up after collapsing, vomiting, diarrhoea. In extreme cases, loss of consciousness can occur. If you suspect that your pet has heat-stroke, it is important to lower their body temperature by moving them to to a shaded, cool area, dousing them with cold water and then contact your vet immediately for advice.

It is not only pets which are in danger from heat. All farm animals should have shaded areas and plenty of clean drinking water available to them during hot weather. The transportation of animals at such times should be avoided unless this is absolutely necessary and should be done during the coolest part of the day - night time is usually the best for this movement. If animals are housed during hot weather, measures must be taken to ensure adequate ventilation inside. The buildings should be monitored frequently to assess any changes indicating that more drastic action is needed.

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