Twelve simple reminders to reduce risks for your pets

Pets need care to prevent risks to their health and lives. This is particularly true when it is very hot or cold outside. We’ve already enjoyed some high temperatures, reaching 25 degrees and more in early June. These temperatures are warning signs for heat stroke and burns. Get it right and you and your pets will both enjoy the beautiful summer sun.

Cats, dogs, rabbits and chickens don’t sweat like humans. Dogs manage their temperature on hots days by panting and losing heat through the pads on their paws and nose. Cats are similar, whereas rabbits lose heat through their ears and breathing. Chickens pant and breathe rapidly, they also hold their wings slightly away from their bodies. This helps the air to flow around them.

Whatever pet you own, take care because heat stroke can be fatal. See the bottom of the article for symptoms of heatstroke in cats, dogs, rabbits and chickens.

One – Buildings and vehicles

Cars may be obvious as a source of heat but consider other buildings and vehicles too. Don’t think that leaving a window open is going to solve the problem, it won’t. If you are going on holiday, don’t leave your dog in a tent, caravan or campervan. If you go out for the day don’t lock your pets in the conservatory. Cats may appear to like the heat but they also need to cool down. Rabbits can overheat in their wooden hutches as can your chickens in their coup. Access to sheds can be a great escape but don’t let your cat or dog get trapped. Check the doors. Leaving them closed for even a few minutes can be deadly.

Two – Water

It’s probably obvious but do keep a fresh water supply available. All your animals’ water feeders will need to be regularly washed out. Consider if you’d be happy to drink from a dirty coffee cup! If it is a particularly warm day, pop a few blocks of ice into the drinking water to keep it cooler. Avoid a complete ice block.

Three – Shade

Provide outside shade where they can protect themselves from the sun’s rays. This can can bushes and plants, trees or even a purpose-built sun shelter.

Four – Pet safe sun-cream

Just like humans, pets can burn particularly where they have lighter coloured fur or exposed skin. Regular burns like this can cause cancer like it does with humans. Check your cats, dogs and rabbits and use pet-safe sun-cream.

Five – Exercising in the summer

Take your dog for walks earlier in the morning or in the evening. Pavements can burn your dog’s paw pads, if you do go out, check their paws as soon as you get home. If it is too hot to walk, try games in the garden or maybe get a paddling pool out.

Six – Chips

We’re not talking with tomato sauce! Pets can wander off in the summer to hide in cooler places, especially cats. Make sure their chip details are up-to-date.

Seven – Fur

During the summer our pets shed more fur to help keep them cooler. You can help the process by brushing regularly.

Eight – Swimming

Swimming is a great exercise for dogs but take care at the beach. Tides and currents can be dangerous, get to know the area. Saltwater isn’t good for them so make sure you have fresh water to drink and wash the salt off their coats. Look out for dangers in lakes, ponds, rivers and canals and any signs with warnings before your dog dives in. Blue algae is a particular problem in the summer and will require a vet’s intervention.

Nine – Other cooling ideas

  • Brush their ears with cool water as this helps to take the heat away, particularly with rabbits.
  • Keep your animals cool with a fan but do not blow it directly onto them. Cover wires to reduce the risk of damage to cables, particularly with rabbits.
  • Provide a shallow pool for your dogs and chickens. Rabbits are not good swimmers so if you provide a pool be aware of their safety.
  • Give your chickens a dust-bathing area.
  • Give your chickens watermelon or cucumber – they’ll love them and get the extra water they need.

If you are concerned about your pet for any reason, make sure you caught you vet straight away.

Ten – Dogs locked in a car

The official advice is to call 999 immediately and ask the police for help. They will advise you on what to do. The police may be able to break into the car, however, if you do this without police advice, your actions could be classed as criminal damage. Take photos or videos of the dog before you do anything.

Eleven – Water intoxication

Thirsty dogs may try to drink too much water too quickly, although rare it can be very dangerous. Keep an eye on what they are doing. Limit the time they spend playing in the water and if they are swallowing a lot, give them time out.

Twelve – What does heat stroke look like?

Dogs and Cats

  • Increasing panting
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness, unsteady on feet
  • Very red or pale gums or bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Reduced urine production, vomiting and/or upset tummy
  • Lethargy, weakness, Seizures/ collapsing

Rabbits

  • Drooling or salivating
  • Panting and taking short shallow breaths
  • Overall weakness and lethargy
  • Reddening and warmth of the ears
  • Wetness around the nose
  • Fitting or falling unconscious

Chickens

  • Difficulty breathing and excessive panting
  • Pale combs/wattles
  • Stops eating and drinks large amounts of water
  • Lifting wings away from body and erect feathers
  • Listless and lethargic
  • Poor egg production and thin shells
  • Upset tummy
  • Seizures/convulsions

Don’t forget all your pets need care, especially when the weather is very hot or very cold.