Phew, what a scorching week it’s been! I hate to moan about this glorious weather when it’s such a rarity but, while it’s utterly blissful when you’re on holiday and have a pool or the sea to dip in, working and dashing about doing ‘normal life’ things in it is quite another matter. And, while you may have been sweltering during the heatwave, spare a thought for your pets, too: they need some extra care and attention to help them to stay cool when it’s hot, hot, hot…
Whatever animals you’re caring for, you need to keep an eye on them during hot spells to make sure they’re not getting too warm. They’ll need access to plenty of water and shade so they can stay hydrated and keep out of the glaring sun. It’s vital that animals aren’t left in cars, caravans, conservatories, greenhouses or outbuildings on warm days – even for short periods. The temperatures in these places can be considerably higher than outside and even a short period left in a hot car, for example, can be very dangerous (even with the windows open).
Make sure caged pets aren’t kept in conservatories or by a window during the summer but instead place cages in a cool room, out of full sun. Animals that live outside will thank you for making sure they have plenty of shade on their cage or run, and remember that the sun will move during the day so what may start off as a nice shady spot in the morning might be in the searing heat by lunchtime! Keep their water topped up at all times (you could add an ice cube to keep it cool) and wrap a frozen water bottle in a towel and place it in their run to create a cool spot for them to lie against. They’ll also enjoy a bit of extra grooming during hot spells (which is nice for some extra bonding time, too) as ridding their dead hairs will help them to keep cooler.
Kitty is a sensible soul when it comes to the sun and will naturally seek out shade and drink plenty of water to stay as cool and hydrated as possible. You can do your bit by making sure their water bowl is constantly topped up (again an ice cube or two in there will be gratefully received). Cats may lie in the sun or by a window for a while as they do tend to like warmth, but they’ve usually got the sense to move to shade when it all gets a bit much. While the sun won’t penetrate their fur, the delicate skin exposed when cats lounge at full stretch can burn and is especially sensitive on pale coloured cats. For protection, you can apply special pet-safe sun cream to their exposed skin to prevent this.
If they’re outside, cats will seek out shade under trees and bushes, but if your garden is a real sun-trap then you can help them out by placing cardboard boxes or umbrellas out there to hide in or under. Always check greenhouses, sheds and summerhouses to make sure Kitty hasn’t hidden away in there for some early morning shade and then become trapped… what was a cool spot in the morning can quickly become unbearable and potentially very dangerous in the heat of the midday sun!
You may find that Kitty is washing a lot in the warm weather – this is because the evaporation from their fur helps to lower body temperature. This is an essential way of keeping cool as cats only sweat through their paws, which isn’t really enough of a surface area to lose much heat. If you
notice that your cat’s leaving a trail of damp footprints it can be a sign that they’re a bit too hot, in which case you could help them to find a cooler, shadier spot to relax.
Dogs, as we know, are generally more dependent on their owners than their feline counterparts, so Fido needs a little more help from you to stay safe in the heat! Again dogs can’t sweat through their skin (only their paws, like cats) so they pant to keep cool. Short-muzzled breeds like pugs and bulldogs (known as ‘brachycephalic’ – the ones that look like they’ve got squashed noses) are at increased risk of overheating because they can’t pant as efficiently, so they’ll need extra care and attention in hot weather. Likewise, overweight or elderly dogs, or those with heart and lung conditions, are also more at risk of heatstroke so owners need to be extra careful and vigilant.
Sometimes, a dog’s need to be ‘man’s best friend’ can override their better judgement so if you’re enjoying a drink outside in the sun or catching a few rays, your faithful companion may glue themselves loyally to your side … despite the fact that they’re slowly melting. In this case, you need to let your furry buddy know that it’s ok to go somewhere cool, and guide them to a shady spot. Again, a frozen bottle of water wrapped in a blanket or towel and placed in their crate or bed will give your four-legged friend something chilly to chill out next to, and ice cubes in a bowl of water make a perfect summer doggy cocktail.
While, for most of the year, walking is an essential part of daily doggy care, when the temperatures sky-rocket don’t feel bad about missing the odd walk or taking shorter ones to avoid your canine companion getting too hot. Don’t walk them in the intense heat of the day but, instead, opt for early morning or late evening when the temperatures are lower. If you can, walk in shaded spots like woodland, or by some water where Fido can cool off with a quick dip. You really need to take care walking on pavements as the tarmac absorbs and retains heat and can burn dogs’ feet so, where possible, walk on grass. To test the temperature of pavements, hold the back of your hand on the tarmac for 7 seconds – if it’s too uncomfortable for you to hold your hand there, then it’s too hot to walk your dog along it.
If you notice any of the following signs in your pet then they may be suffering from heatstroke:
– Heavy panting
– Excessive drooling
– Lack of coordination
If any of these symptoms occur then it’s vital to act fast as heatstroke can quickly become very serious for your pet. You urgently need to lower their body temperature but in a steady and controlled way (so don’t dunk them straight into freezing cold water as this could cause shock). Move them quickly to a cooler, shaded spot and wrap them in a cool, damp towel or slowly pour over a little cool (not cold) water. Let them drink small amounts of cool water and phone the vet immediately. Heatstroke can be a very dangerous condition which sadly, in some cases, can prove
fatal – it’s far more serious than just ‘being a bit hot’ so requires immediate attention. It’s much better to try to avoid this situation in the first place by being vigilant and doing all you can to keep your pets cool.
And, while we’re on the subject, spare a thought for wildlife in this hot weather, too! Birds, hedgehogs, foxes and other garden visitors will be very grateful if you leave them a dish of water outside at this time of year when their usual water sources have dried up.
Right, now it’s cooled down a little I’m off to take Poppy and Betty for a little wander in the woods and a dip in the stream. I might even be tempted to have a paddle myself! Stay cool folks and enjoy the sun while it lasts. (I always worry when I mention the weather and I fear that, by writing this, I may have inadvertently upset the weather gods…in which case please accept my apologies if the heatwave has come crashing to an end!)