Summer this year is predicted to be one of the hottest. And, whilst this time is filled with pool parties, family beach outings and BBQs with friends, it is also a time when the most vulnerable are risk of great discomfort, heatstroke and even death!
Those most susceptible are the elderly, children and our beloved pets. Animals in our care are at risk for a range of reasons, mostly because their welfare is completely dependent on us.
A good way to consider how your pet may be feeling is to say to yourself;
‘if I’m hot, my pet is even hotter’!
There are many reasons why they may suffer more than, including their body coverings not being suitable for a hot environment. This can make it difficult for them to thermoregulate (cool down). Additionally, different species can suffer in different ways, as can varying breeds. For example, many dogs with shorter muzzles, are not well adapted to breathing and have difficulty panting to lose heat. Additionally, most pets do not have sweat glands, or at most, have very few. This means that birds, dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea-pigs lose heat through respiration (breathing). An issue here is that if the air is hotter outside their bodies, their body temperature will increase. Breathing also results in moisture loss, so the heavier they breathe, the more water they lose.
So, how can you ensure your best furry or feathered friend can enjoy summertime as much as the rest of us, without encountering the risks of overheating?
I have come up with a checklist that applies to best friends’ needs no matter what species:
Never ever leave your dog in a car. Even if it is a mild day, the temperature in a car can exceed the external temperature quickly, putting them at great risk of heatstroke in a very short time.
Ensure your pet has ample access to shaded areas. The area must be big enough for them to lie and spread out under. The more shade, the better.
Supply multiple containers of fresh, cool water. That way if your pet accidently knocks one over, there are still plenty of others they can access. Freeze water too for your pet. Use empty ice-cream containers filled with water and treats.
Supply an area where your pet can expose themselves to lots of water, such as a shallow shell pool in the shade.
Only exercise when the sun is not up. Dusk and dawn are always preferable walk times. Always check the temperature of the ground to ensure your pet doesn’t hurt or burn their paws when walking with you. If it is hot, access grassy areas instead.
Wherever and whenever possible, give your pet access to indoors. All pets will benefit from this. Remember, if you want to be inside under the air-conditioning, your pet will too!
Consider dropping your dog off in an airconditioned doggy day care whilst you are at work.
Install a doggy door so that your pet can have access to indoors whilst you are not home.
Lastly, remember it’s not just our pets who can suffer. Wildlife are also exposed to the elements and can do with as much help as you can give them. Wherever possible, please leave out containers of fresh, cool water for wildlife. They will thank you for it, by visiting you more often to take advantage of your kindness.