Summer Safety – Keeping your pet safe in the heat

AdobeStock_112911407During the summer months, your pets will be feeling the heat, so it is important to take extra care to help keep them safe and healthy.

Here are a few tips to make sure your pet is cool as a cucumber as the mercury rises!

Never leave your pet in a parked car

Even on mild days, a car can quickly become too hot for your pet. In fact, it is often warmer in the back of a car than the front even on a cool day.

A study by Stanford University discovered that when it was just 72 degrees outside, a car’s internal temperature can climb to over 115 degrees within an hour. Another study by San Francisco State University found that when it was 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car rose to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes.

A dog’s body temperature is normally between 101 to 102.5 degrees and can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death. As a result, in some jurisdictions, it is illegal to leave dogs in a car by themselves, even with the window slightly open. In fact, studies have shown that cracking the windows in a car and parking in the shade has little effect on a vehicle’s internal temperature.

AdobeStock_110191462What should I do if I find a dog left in a car?

Unfortunately, it isn't illegal in the UK to leave your pet in a car by themselves (yet), so if you do come across a dog (or any other animal) that has been left in a car on a warm day, the RSPCA advises that you call the Police for assistance.

The Police will be able to take the appropriate action, and, if necessary, break into the car. Alternatively, call the RSPCA or another similar organisation. Only the Police, the Fire Brigade or the RSPCA are allowed to break a car window to access a dog in distress. Members of the public are obliged to pay for the damage if they break the window without permission.

Always remember that during hot weather, if you are unable to keep your pet with you at all times when you leave home, do not take them with you. Also, do not leave your pet in greenhouses and other buildings with lots of glass or have a metal skin, such as caravans (and even horse boxes) because, like your car, they will heat up to a dangerous level too.

Provide your pet with outdoor shade and cooling products

Do not prevent your pet from going out on a hot day, let them discover the weather for themselves if they are usually let out during the day they won’t understand why you are restricting them.

Cats are generally bright enough to identify when they are too hot and will automatically move to a shady spot or return inside, you might even find them in unusual places such as in the bathroom sink or under the bed where it is cooler!

Dogs, however, are generally poor at recognising they are overheating and some breeds, border collies, for example, will continue playing until they become dehydrated or have heat stroke because they are so focused.

Since you can be prosecuted for cruelty to animals if you leave your dog without adequate protection from heat and adequate water, it is, therefore, your responsibility to identify places for your dog to retreat to when it is outside.

An easy way of protecting your pet from overheating is to use a cooling coat or a cooling mat. Easidri cooling coats are made with unique cell structure which slowly releases its moisture as water evaporates, keeping your dog cool and comfortable without wetting their coat. Easidri cooling mats contain a cooling gel which is activated when pressure is applied and then turns cold.

Also, you can provide shade and if there is none in your garden, you can simply use a sheet draped over a couple of garden chairs. In addition, it may be obvious but it's important to remember that the sun moves, therefore the shady areas of the garden will also change.

This is vital when considering the initial location of a rabbit hutch or aviary, for example. Make sure that they are away from direct sunlight, or, if this is not possible, drape a damp towel over the cage to help cool their habitat down.  Fish can also feel the heat too so make sure that your fishpond has shaded and deeper areas, so your fish can move to cooler waters in hot weather

The above is also true for indoor cages and other habitats (including indoor aquariums). Therefore, where possible, they should be placed away from direct sunlight. A good way of ventilating and cooling a room down is to close the curtains, open the windows and keep the surrounding air moving with a fan or air conditioning.

 

A falling cat "righting" itself A falling cat "righting" itself

Be aware of High Rise Syndrome

If you do have the windows open and live in a high-rise building and have a cat, do be aware of “High rise syndrome”.

This is the term used for the phenomenon of cats falling more than two storeys from a high-rise or skyscraper. It is also used to refer to the injuries that they might sustain if they fell from a great height.

Hot weather is usually accompanied by longer days as well as open windows and doors that are usually shut. This tends to encourage the curious cat out into unfamiliar territory and consequently may well get distracted by an unexpected noise or come across an unfamiliar surface, which might cause them to slip. As a result, because they are unaware of the limits of the area, they may fall and injure themselves, or worse.

High-rise syndrome is more common in countries that have populations that tend to live vertically rather than spread out as they do in the UK, for example in Hong Kong and America. However, it is worth identifying whether open windows and doors may be hazardous to your curious pet and make the potential exit more secure.

Jack Russell Terrier Welpe trinkt WasserProvide your pet with a constant supply of water

As indicated above you can be prosecuted if you leave your dog without adequate water. As a result, while it may be important for your own criminal record it is vital that your dog – and, indeed all animals in your care – is provided with a regular supply of water; we also include water to cool down as well as water to drink.

You should provide, especially in warm weather, multiple sources of drinking water, both in and outside (preferably in the shade so the water does not get too hot) in order to prevent dehydration. Check the bowls throughout the day to see if they have not been knocked over or emptied and, if possible, keep on refreshing it. This is important because bacteria, viruses and parasites tend to accumulate in water and failure to change your pet’s water sources will expose them to various health risks.

 

In addition, your pets will instinctively know if it is not fresh and clean, and may refuse to drink, therefore increasing their dehydration risk. Cats also prefer to have their water placed away from their food. A water fountain may help to encourage drinking in reluctant pets, not only in hot weather but all year round!

 

Dogs - and some cats - will appreciate a shallow paddling pool or garden sprinkler to play in to help them cool down. However, pets that are around larger sources of water, such as ponds and swimming pools, should be supervised in case they get into difficulties and drown.

With small pets, as well as providing a constant supply of water, you can also increase their water intake by giving them fruit and vegetables with a high water content such as apples, celery and cucumber

Another way of helping to cool your pet down is to use frozen water bottles. Simply fill several bottles with water and freeze. During warm weather, put the bottle in their cage so they can sit beside or lie next to it and your pet will get some relief. Once one bottle has become warm and/or the water has melted, you can replace it with another and return that one to the freezer! Frozen house bricks, a ceramic tile.

Horses ordinarily will drink from 5 to 15 gallons of water and, on hot days, may even consume four times that amount so be prepared! An average size horse can drink 25 gallons of water per day when the temperature is above 22˚C so multiple sources are required if your horse is part of a group.

Do make sure that any animal that is overheating does not gulp water to fast and to excess. This may lead to gastrointestinal issues, vomiting in small pets and colic in horses.

 

If you have a pond in your garden, you will find that the level will drop in hot weather. As a result, you should keep the level topped up in order to protect the wildlife. If the wildlife or fish are at risk it is still OK to do so even if there is a hosepipe ban. However, it is best to use water that has been collected in a water butt because tap water tends to encourage the formation of algae.

Provide food suitable for the weather

Like humans, most animals will eat less when it is hot; this increases the possibility of dehydration, therefore increasing the need for access to water.

As a result, try feeding several smaller portions rather than the usual sized portions, this will prevent the food from becoming spoiled and therefore is less likely to be rejected. It will also reduce the presence of flies and other insects, which might lead to illnesses such as fly strike in rabbits.

You can also increase their water intake by feeding them fruit and vegetables with a high water content, however, this should be done in moderation because if they eat too much they can suffer from diarrhoea which may encourage flies and therefore the development of flystrike.

Other health issues to consider are bloat and other gastrointestinal problems in dogs, this can be avoided by always feeding your dog more than an hour either side of exercise.

Bay horse enjoying the shower outdoorConsider your pet’s physical limitations

Regarding the above, it is best to exercise your pet in the morning or evening, before the sun becomes too warm, ideally before 8am or after 5pm.

You should also carry a source of water with you or have a break where there is water, and take frequent breaks. However, if you do find yourself exercising in the heat try to keep to the shade and surfaces that do not become too hot such as pavements, tarmac, parking lots etc. because in very hot weather dogs foot pads can become burned and/or sore.

Do be aware that short-nosed animals such as Boston Terriers and Persian cats are less able to tolerate the heat because their flattened faces make breathing more difficult. Animals that are fatter/stockier and those that have longer or thicker coats than average also find the heat problematic. In addition, animals that are very young or very old and those that are unwell or on medication should also be observed more closely in case they become overheated (see signs of heatstroke below).

Unlike many smaller animals, horses are able to sweat so hot weather is not so problematic, particularly if the heat is dry rather than humid. However, the sweat runs off them rather than evaporates which is much less effective. As a result, you could consider adding electrolytes to the water. However, some horses refuse water with these additives so be aware of how much is being consumed just in case! More important is their salt intake so you should also be supplementing their feed with salt licks to help replace lost salts.

Protect your pets from the sun and pests

As with humans, many pets are susceptible to skin cancer. Breeds that are paler are usually the most at risk. However, areas that are less hairy such as the ears, nose belly and groin are also “hot spots”. As a result, you should use a sunblock that is appropriate for use on pets to help reduce the effect of the sun.

Some sunblocks for baby and children are suitable for use on your pet, however, a large number are poisonous so please ask your vet’s advice before applying a sunscreen, just in case.

All cages, bowls and tanks that are kept inside should be placed well away from direct sunlight or, if this is not possible, provide shade by closing the curtains or placing a screen in front of the habitat such as a towel.

You can further help by getting your dog, horse and rabbit clipped– always ask a professional groomer to do this because they will know how short to make your pet’s coat, plus they are less likely to damage your pet’s skin than if you do it yourself.

 

Some cats are occasionally clipped; however, cats are much more effective than other animals at looking after themselves in warm weather so it is rare that a cat will need to be clipped. Always ask your vet or groomer whether it is appropriate for the species of pet you have if clipping is appropriate. Do make sure, however, that your cat – and any other hairy pet you might have – is regularly brushed in warm weather, particularly if they venture outside.

Not only will this remove any excess hair and therefore help reduce overheating, it will also give you the opportunity to discover whether they have been exposed to ticks, fleas, or any other insects that can adversely affect your pet’s health (e.g. flies causing flystrike)

Other measures that will help prevent insects and the illnesses that they bring include removing any fresh food that has been left for more than a few hours, replacing litter and cleaning out cages more frequently. It is also a good idea to change the water in your fish tank and bowls more frequently since hot weather can encourage algal growth.

Be aware of other hazards

Talking of water, large areas of water are hazardous, particularly to dogs, many of whom are, surprisingly, not good swimmers. Short-snouted dogs, for example, tend to be top heavy and therefore tend to sink.

We have covered many of the things that are irritating and poisonous to our pets in other articles but it is worth remembering that summer brings out bees and other stinging insects as well as fleas and ticks. Plus with the increase in time spent outside your pet may be exposed to pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides so remember to store all chemicals out of reach of your pet.

In addition, the hot weather tends to encourage people to gather together to have barbeques and pool parties, for example; this means that there is a wide variety of temptations for your pet, from tobacco products to alcohol and chocolate to lighter fluid. Parties can also mean loud noises and, occasionally fireworks, as a result, it is perhaps sensible to keep your pets inside on these occasions and, should your pet be anxious in these situations, provide a product that helps reduce stress such as a pheromone diffuser.

 

Below are the links to our articles on pet poisons in order to help refresh your memory of, or, perhaps, introduce you to, the wide variety of foods and products that may harm your pet!

It is imperative that you consider your pet’s safety at all times during warm weather. Fun in the sun can quickly become dangerous, and many can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called heatstroke.

Heatstroke – the signs

Once an animal does become overheated they may develop heatstroke, a condition where they are unable to reduce their body temperature. Signs of heatstroke include:

  • heavy panting
  • profuse salivation
  • rapid pulse
  • very red gums/tongue
  • lethargy
  • lack of coordination
  • reluctance/inability to rise after collapsing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea

If allowed to progress heatstroke can cause seizures, coma, cardiac arrest and, eventually, death.

What should I do if my pet gets heatstroke?

AdobeStock_113679444Once you recognise that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, you should do the following

Move them immediately to a shaded/cooler area, preferably an area with a fan. Cool their body down – try using cool wet towels or a water hose/spray. Make sure the water isn’t too cold because you may cause your pet to go into shock. Let your pet drink small amounts of cool (not cold) water. Make sure they drink little and often, in order to avoid causing vomiting.

Contact your Veterinary Surgeon and explain your pet’s symptoms – even if your pet seems to be responding well to treatment. It is highly likely they will invite you to the surgery for further treatment or will arrange to come to you. Complications from heat stroke may show up several days after the incident so prompt care can often prevent further deterioration.

 

 

 

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