We're in the middle of a heatwave!
And whilst the weather might seem glorious to you, for our fur covered friends it can get uncomfortable. In fact, high heats can even be very dangerous for them.
It's important to understand that cats and dogs can't regulate their temperatures in the same ways we can, and what you can do to keep your pet healthy and comfortable during the hot summer months.
How do dogs and cats cool down?
Humans sweat when they get too hot. This helps us to cool down by removing some of the heat from our body when it evaporates off our skin.
But unlike humans, who have sweat glands all over their bodies, dogs and cats only have them on the non furry parts of their body, such as their nose and foot pads. This means there is less opportunity for evaporative cooling. They must regulate their body temperature via other functions. These include panting, as saliva dissipates heat, behavioural modifications such as jumping into lakes/swimming pools and reducing body activity.
As the days get warmer, it’s essential for owners to understand and pre-empt the signs of overheating. If your pet overheats, it can be very serious, leading to collapse, coma and in extreme cases, even death.
Top tips to protect your pet from the heat:
Provide well shaded areas
This includes both inside and outside the home. Even simple steps like drawing the curtains will help to keep the house cooler and provide comfortable cool spots for your pet to relax. If you do have to leave your pet home for long periods, try and have a neighbour come check on them, or return at lunchtime to minimise the length of time your pet is left unattended.
Grooming your pet regularly and properly will help your pet to keep cool and comfortable. A build up of excess and loose hair in their coat can reduce their ability to regulate their temperature and expel excess heat.
Plenty of drinking water
Whether you're home all day, or leaving your pet whilst you go to work, make sure they always have access to fresh, cold water. Dehydration risk increases in the hot weather and can be life-threatening for our pets.
Avoid the midday sun
Take your dog on walks outside of the 12-4pm window. This is generally the hottest part of the day and when your pet is at the most risk. If you do have to take them out during these hours, make it a short walk, bring lots of fresh water with you, and don't force your pet to walk, run or exert themselves too much. If possible, try and take them on a walk near a lake or the sea, allowing your pet to jump in and cool off if they get too hot!
Never leave them in the car unattended
Even if it's just for a few minutes. When we leave our pets in the car, the temperature can rise very quickly - by about 4° in only 15 minutes. On a hot day this can very quickly drive your pet's core body temperature up to a dangerous level, causing them to collapse. Leave the air conditioning isn't enough. If you can't take your pet inside with you, and tying them up outside isn't an option - don't bring them!
Pet's can get sunburn too! Lighter coloured pets can be predisposed to sun burns, particularly on their nose and ears. There are specific formulas for pets that can be rubbed onto their skin, protecting them from the harsh UV rays that cause all of us to go red!
Why Might My Pet Overheat?
Some pets will be predisposed to overheating. If your pet fits the bill, you must be particularly aware and prepared to help minimise the effects. These factors include:
- Dark and thick coated breeds (Huskies, Newfoundlands)
- Obese animals
- Brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, French bulldogs, Boxers) as they have difficulties breathing
- Any pets suffering from laryngeal paralysis (when part of the larynx has nerve damage making it difficult to breath).
If your pet does collapse due to the heat, call your vet immediately. Overheating puts your pet at risk of multiple organ dysfunction if not treated promptly.
In the meantime, there are some very easy things you can do to help your pet. Place a cool (not cold!), wet towel on their foot pads, spray water over them whilst fanning them to help dissipate the heat, and apply ice packs to areas with skin
In the circumstance that your animal collapses, call your vet immediately because they are at risk of multiple organ dysfunction if not treated quickly. In the meantime, you can do some very easy things which can hugely aid your pet. These include applying a cool (not cold!), wet towel on their foot pads, spraying water over them whilst fanning them to help them dissipate the heat and applying ice packs to their inguinal area (the thin skin in the groin area).
It is essential you don’t put them in a cold bath or equivalent as this can cause peripheral vasoconstriction, reducing the capacity for heat loss at the foot pads as the blood is conserved around the organs.
Now that you know how to keep your pet cool, and treat them if they overheat, you and your pet are both set to have a fun, and safe, summer!