Did you know that animals can get heat stroke, just like us? Although the British summer is a bit temperamental (to say the least!), we’ve already experienced some scorching temperatures, along with hot, muggy and humid weather so it’s important to know how to keep your pet cool and safe this summer.

Dogs

Dogs tend to enjoy sitting in the sun but lots of time spent in the sun can cause heat stroke and increase the risk of skin cancers. They are not the best at keeping themselves cool so make sure you follow these tips when the weather’s hot:

1) Exercise your dog early in the morning or late at night

Walks are better in the early morning, late afternoon or evening, not in the middle of the day when temperatures are at their highest. 

2) Look out for signs of dehydration

Dogs can’t sweat, they cool off by panting, so an overheated dog will dribble and drool excessively. If he’s suffering from dehydration, he will become lethargic, and his eyes might become bloodshot. A good way to test for dehydration is to lift his skin. If his skin takes longer than usual to fall back into place then it’s a sign he’s dehydrated.

3) Keep your dog hydrated.

Different dogs have different needs when battling the heat. Keep in mind that darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats. Also, overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration. Remember to provide your dog with plenty of water, both in the house and on walks, and if you are leaving your dog at home alone, make sure its bowl can’t be knocked over. You can also add a few cubes of ice to your pets’ water bowls. Not only will they enjoy it, but it will help to keep their body temperature down;

4) Don’t leave your dog in a car

Don’t leave your dog in a car, even for a few minutes. An open window or a windshield screen isn’t enough to keep the car cool. According to the RSPCA, if it’s 22C outside, within an hour it can be 47C inside a car. Parking under a shady tree or leaving the windows open will only make a small difference. Car interiors get very hot very quickly – don’t forget that.

5) Apply sunscreen

Something that many of you may not realise is that you should apply sunscreen if your dog has a light-coloured nose or ears. Dogs can burn just like humans, and can even develop skin cancer.

English Bulldog Portrait

Cats

Cats enjoy warm weather, but unlike dogs, they are also good at keeping themselves cool if necessary. So don’t worry if your cat seems to be grooming itself more than usual. This is a cooling mechanism similar to sweating – as the saliva evaporates off its fur, your cat will cool down. However you should still follow these tips to help protective them from excessive heat this summer:

1) Provide shade outside

If there’s no shade in the garden, create some shade with a cloth over a comfortable spot. Choose somewhere that gets a gentle breeze, where your cat can lie. Water should always be accessible in outside areas as well as indoors.

2) Make sure there’s cool spots

Cats love to curl up in the bath or sink because porcelain stays cool even when it is hot outside – so try not to pick them up and move them, even if they are laying somewhere they shouldn’t really be allowed – after all, it’s likely they are just picking the coolest spot in the house to relax.

3) Pay attention to your cat’s feet

If your cat is leaving wet paw prints, he is sweating and will need to replenish his fluids. You can try cooling him down by dipping his paws in water, but if you’re a cat owner, you know only too well that this may not go down too well!

4) Apply sunscreen

Just as with dogs, it’s important to apply sunscreen to your cat. Cats with pale coats are particularly prone to sunburn. Ears are most commonly affected, which can be very painful. Siamese, Birmans, Cornish and Devon Rex cats are especially vulnerable as they all tend to have sparse fur. If he likes to sit outside it’s wise to apply sun block cream on his ears. Like humans, severely sunburned skin can lead to a form of skin cancer, so it’s important to take precaution.

5) Sunbathing hours

Many cats love hot spots and basking in direct sunlight. They usually cope with high temperatures better than dogs, but still can become affected by heatstroke. So keep an eye on your cat’s sleeping habits, particularly at the hottest times of day. If your cat has a tendency to head for the sunniest spots outside and nap, it might be an idea to keep her inside between 11am to 4pm when the sun’s at its strongest.

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Whether you have a dog or cat or any other animal for that matter – don’t ignore the signs of heatstroke.

The RSPCA has issued a checklist which includes:

  • Heavy panting
  • Salivation
  • Rapid pulse
  • Very red gums/tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of consciousness in extreme circumstances

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

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