It’s time to start considering how to be prepared to help our pets cope with the warmer, and then hotter, days ahead.
As funny as it sounds, we need to be aware of sunburn especially in pets with white, non-pigmented skin and white–coloured coat. Sunscreen such as zinc cream can help…..so long as they don’t lick it off again, but enough should stay on to help. We need to encourage our sunbakers to stay out of the rays!
Dogs traveling on the back of utes should have a shaded area to prevent burning their footpads/body parts on the ute tray,(which can get very hot in the sun) and to provide a suitable shady retreat to prevent heatstroke.
Small pets, such as rabbits,guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, rats and mice, are highly susceptible to heat stroke (which can be fatal). They are usually confined in cages and hutches and are unable to move away to cooler, shady places. In hot, humid weather, they need to be moved into areas that are cool, shaded and well-ventilated and must have fresh water always available. It may be necessary, on very hot days, to bring them into a cool place indoors. Watch out for those fish in tanks near a hot, unshaded window.
Heatstroke happens when the heat generated by the body is greater than the body’s ability to lose heat. Heatstroke is very serious and can be fatal.
Climatic Conditions that can lead to Heatstroke
Hot or even Warm, humid environment
Lack of shade and water
Poor acclimatisation to heat
Providing a Cool Summer Environment
Always provide an area that your pets can go that is cool and shady that has good air flow/ventilation as, unlike humans, many animals cool down by panting, not sweating. If your pet remains outside all day, access to a cool spot under a tree or under a shady verandah is ideal, away from hot paving or cement. Check the way the sun moves throughout the day to make sure there is shade available all day long.
Provide plenty clean fresh water with an alternate water source in case of spilling. A second heavy cement water bowl or something similar, that can’t be tipped over, or a heavy bucket under a slowly dripping tap is ideal. Be extra vigilant if your pet tends to splash and empty the water bowl.
Frozen Treats are a good way to keep your pet cool. It can be as simple as a frozen block of ice placed in the water bowl in the morning. Fill a Kong Toy with cream cheese and your pets favourite treats and freeze. Or even a plastic container with a nutritious homemade soup base with some more favourite treats, frozen. Put it in your pets bowl first thing in the morning to help keep them cool and busy all day.
Keep your pet well groomed, especially if they are long-haired. It may help to have them clipped. Daily brushing will help them to shed their winter coats.
Have you ever thought of providing a kiddies wading pool..for your pets? They love them, especially the clam shell type. Lovely cool sand in one side to snooze in, cool water in the other side to paddle in.
If possible, bring animals indoors on hot, humid days. Doggy and cat doors are great, if your pet is well behaved.
Never exercise animals in hot, humid conditions.If it is hot for us, the ground is even hotter for them, as they are that much closer, especially bitumen or cement. On hot days, avoid the hottest part of the day and walk your dog very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon. Don’t forget to watch out for signs of stress, such as a dangling tongue, and stop regularly to give your dog a drink and rest, or even a swim.
DO NOT leave your pet in a vehicle! Even with the windows down animals can still overheat and die. Temperatures can rise very rapidly to dangerous levels, even on days when the climate is mild. Most cars can reach up 55*C in only SIX minutes. At this temperature, if your pet is in the car, it would be suffering, and very near a painful death.
Predisposition to Heatstroke
Shortnosed dog breeds (such as Bull Dogs, Pugs, Pekingese)
Very young or very old
Central nervous system /Brain disease
The Signs of Heatstroke
These may vary, there may be all or only some signs:
Increased Heart Rate
Collapsing and lying down
Overly Red or Purple Gums
Signs of mental confusion, delirium
Muscle tremors, muscle spasms
If you feel your pet is suffering from heatstroke, veterinary advice should be sought ASAP, as it is such a potentially serious condition.
Initial emergency first aid at home is to normalise body temperature. Wet down your pet’s fur by placing it in a room temperature water bath or spraying/hosing it or with wet towels. Put the wet animal in front of a fan and put ice packs to its head. DO NOT use ice-cold water or ice as this can make the the problem worse. The temperature needs to be lowered gradually. Keep your pet as quiet as possible.
For Heatstress, treat as above and monitor, keeping your pet in a cool, well ventilated area. Make sure they drink plenty of water and are not suffering any of the more serious symptoms of heatstroke.