Keeping pets cool in a heatwave
Veda Dante, January 2017
As temperatures continue to soar across the country, it's important to know that hot, humid weather also affects our furry friends. “Dogs and cats can succumb to the heat very quickly,” says Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia. “It’s really important that pet owners are extra vigilant when it comes to keeping their pets cool.” Ensuring your furry or feathered friend has adequate shade around their outside area is a must, as is the positioning of water bowls. “During this type of weather consider allowing your pet to have access to a cool inside area like a laundry,” Nadia suggests. “Adding some additional water bowls is also a good idea.” According to RSPCA Victoria, tests conducted by Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service on a 29 degree day with the car’s air conditioning having cooled the interior to a comfortable 20 degrees showed it took just 10 minutes for the temperature to more than double to 44 degrees. In a further 10 minutes it had tripled to a deadly 60.2 degrees. As with humans, exposure to these types of temperatures can be extremely dangerous. Dogs are particularly at risk as they cool themselves by panting. If the air around them is too hot - particularly if they don’t have access to water - dogs are physically unable to regulate their body temperature. In fact, in the time it takes to pick up a few things for dinner at the supermarket and get through the check-out, a dog left in a hot car could have already died an agonising death. Even if parked in the shade, the temperature inside a car on a summer’s day can reach hazardous levels. If you know that you will most likely be away from your pet, even for a couple of minutes, while you are out, it is much better to leave an animal at home where they are comfortable and have access to water than leave it alone in a car. RSPCA Victoria also urges pet owners to not leave an animal on the back of a utility without adequate shade, shelter and water. Again, animals left in these conditions can quickly suffer from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Heatstroke (hyperthermia)It is extremely important that every pet owner understands the early signs of heatstroke. Dogs and cats die very quickly from heatstroke unless it is treated immediately. If you suspect your animal is suffering from heatstroke or heat stress do not hesitate in seeking medical attention as it can cause irreversible cell damage to animals that can quickly result in death. Symptoms include:
- Pet distress
- Excessive panting
- Copious volumes of saliva
- Bright red or bluish purple gums
- All pets must be kept in cool, shady areas. It is ideal to bring pets indoors on hot days.
- Small pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds, are particularly susceptible to heat. Please bring these animals indoors during hot weather. If allowed free run in a laundry or bathroom, they will benefit from the cool tiles. If this is not possible, drape their cage with wet towels and provide a sturdy icepack or frozen water bottle for the animal to lean against so it can to regulate its own body temperature. Make sure the animals' enclosures are out of direct sunlight and protected from the sun as the shade moves throughout the day.
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water in large water containers. Be sure to provide numerous sources of water in case one is spilt. Ensure the containers are in the shade and add some ice to the water to keep it cool.
- Place a clam shell pool in the shade and fill it with water so your dog can wade in the water to keep cool. If your pet's share your yard with children, remember to have all necessary precautions in place, including fencing, in order to keep children safe.
- Walk your dog in the coolness of the early morning or evening, especially on very hot days. You may even take your pet to the local beach, creek or river to let it have a paddle to cool down. This will help your pet avoid possible dehydration, sunburn and potentially painful paws and it will help you and your pet enjoy the walk more.
- If your pet seems to be in discomfort, try wetting its feet and misting water onto its face. This is an option for dogs, cats, ferrets, poultry and caged birds as many animals control their inner temperature through their feet. Its important not to saturate a bird's feathers as this can cause them to go into shock.
Horses and livestock
- Make sure your horses and livestock have access to shade.
- Provide extra water for your horses and livestock.