People up and down the UK tend to rejoice when that elusive hot weather finally graces us for a few weeks a year, but did you know that we need to protect pets during a heatwave even if they are very healthy?
Every year we see heart-breaking news stories of animals who have been left to suffer in the heat and, in the worst cases, lose their lives. Unfortunately, lots of pet owners are still not aware of the possibly disastrous consequences of leaving their pets to suffer in the heat.
Here at Paws in the City, we want to help to educate pet owners on the best ways to keep your pets safe and healthy during the warmer season.
During the summer months, you often hear about dogs needing to cool down and stay out of the heat, but did you know that cats can also suffer from heatstroke?
Many cats and dogs will search out a spot of sunshine to snooze and soak up the sunrays, but you need to ensure they don’t get sunburnt or dehydrated by doing so. Just like with humans, overexposure to the sun can even lead to more serious consequences such as skin cancer.
When is it too hot to walk a dog?
Generally, it is hotter during the middle of the day, and it is best to keep your pets inside when the sun is at its hottest. You should try and walk or exercise your pet during the cooler hours, which tend to be early morning and late evening. This way, they will be exercised and ready to rest instead of walking dogs in hot weather.
How hot is too hot for dogs?
Your dog is more at risk of overheating and dehydrating when the temperature is above 20 degrees celsius. If the temperature is above 25C, the Kennel Club Pet Insurance does not recommend walking your dog outside. If you can’t avoid it, please ensure you take plenty of water and allow your pet to rest in the shade as much as possible.
We often get asked for our best tips for how to cool down a dog, so let’s share our tips for protecting your animals during the heatwave:
- Avoid walking your puppies and dogs during hot weather; try and stick to early mornings and late evenings if the weather has cooled down
- Pavements can get very hot and may burn your pets’ paws – an excellent rule to follow is if it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for paws!
- Make sure they always have access to clean, cold, fresh water to help them stay hydrated
- Make sure they are kept in a shaded area and out of direct sunlight – never leave your pet in a conservatory in warm weather
- Cats love to hide away in cardboard boxes, so leave some around (out of direct sunlight) to encourage your cats to seek out some shade themselves
- Do not leave any animals inside a car or other vehicle. When driving, keep the aircon on and take plenty of water with you; When leaving your dog in the car, the temperature can increase very quickly and result in fatalities
- Cool dogs down by laying a damp towel on the floor for them to lie on – never place it over your pet as it can trap them in the heat
- Brush your pet regularly as this can help to remove any shed or excess hair, meaning their coat will be less dense
- You can help to prevent sunburn by using a pet-safe sunscreen on your dog’s nose and the tips of their ears
A great way to keep your pets cool is to set up a paddling pool to help them cool off. Dogs and cats both lose heat through their paw pads and by panting, so by cooling down their paws in cooler water, they are able to bring down their body temperature. Water sprinklers are also a great way to keep them cool and entertained – just make sure they are not running around too much and overheating.
Some dogs may be drawn to lakes or rivers during their walks in warmer weather, so make sure to keep an eye on them to ensure they’re safe and don’t enter the water. If they’re going to enter, it might be worth getting a doggy life vest to help keep them safe.
However, some dogs and almost all cats will steer clear of a paddling pool, so a genius way to cool them down is by using frozen treats. They also make terrific enrichment tools! You can use flavoured or unflavoured ice cubes or stick some frozen treats in a Kong – just make sure you use pet-friendly ingredients.
Grooming is also easy to help your long-haired pets stay cool during the summer months. Lots of dogs naturally shed their winter coats, making way for their lighter summer coat. Some breeds need a bit of help and require grooming through the summer months to keep their hair shorter and help them stay cool. However, this isn’t the case for all breeds and species, so please check with your groomer or vet before a drastic grooming session.
If your pet has white fur and pink skin, then make sure to keep them inside as much as possible during the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest, as they are more likely to get sunburnt than a darker pet.
Here are signs of burned pads – keep an eye out for these if you do walk your dog outdoors in warm weather:
- Licking or chewing their feet
- Refusing to walk
- Darker colour to the pawpaws
- Blisters or redness on the paw pads
- Damaged or missing parts of the paw pads
Remember – try the five-second test and if it is too hot for you to keep your hands on it, then it’s too hot for your pet to walk on!
It is incredibly important that you know what to look out for when it comes to your animal overheating.
Here are the early signs of heat stroke in dogs to look out for if you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke:
- Heaving panting or excessive drooling
- Dark red gums and tongue
- ‘Glassy’ eyes
- Lethargy, drowsiness, or uncoordinated movements
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
If your dog is displaying any symptoms of dog heat stroke, then please call your vet immediately.
Please, head to Paws the City if you would like to speak to one of our vets.