Keeping pets safe in hot weather 

It’s nearly holiday season and the thermometer mercury is rising. Many of us will be venturing abroad for even more sun, and a fair few will be taking their dogs. However, even for those set to enjoy the intermittent heat on home shores, please remember that our pets do not cope as well in the heat as do we. Pet thermoregulatory mechanisms only really include panting, some sweating from the paws and radiation heat loss from fur- these systems are not as efficient for bodily cooling as is as the human ability to sweat all over.  

Under conditions of intense heat it does not take that long for a cat or a dog to suffer heatstroke. Hyperthermia is a life threatening, medical emergency, where high temperatures and humidity cause the major internal organs, including the brain, to start to shut down, eventually leading to seizures, coma and death. Broadly, when temperatures exceed 39 degrees centigrade, steps should be taken to provide shade and cool the animal.  

Please see a quickie guide to keeping pets happy and free from harm in the heat. 

  • Never leave your dog or cat in a parked car, even with a window slightly open. Quite aside from the risk of theft, it takes only takes minutes for pets to become extremely distressed in the heat of the car, even in shade. If you are travelling have the windows down with good air flow or air conditioning. 
  • Never leave your house on a hot day, whether for a walk or car journey with your pet, without a bottle of water and something to drink it out of. 
  • If you are sitting or picnicking in the park on a very hot day, be aware that your dog may get overly hot much more quickly than you. Find shade or take a large umbrella and plenty of water. 
  • Don’t play strenuous ball or running games with your dog in intense heat. 
  • Be aware, brachycephalic breeds (cats or dogs with squashed or shortened noses) find it much harder to pant and breathe in the heat. 
  • Very young, very old, obese and sick animals will find hot weather more difficult. 
  • City walks on hot pavements can be taxing for all sorts of dogs. Try walking barefoot and see how you like it. Keep an eye on your pet and look for signs of discomfort, seeking shade and dispensing water as necessary. 
  • On very hot days, cats should not be shut into areas like a conservatory or shed- either can heat up very quickly- check that your pet, especially cats, have not sneaked in. Ensure there are shaded, cool areas in the home your pet has easy access to. 
  • A trip to the groomers can help long-coated breeds and don’t forget breeds with white coats, single coats or hairless types need sun protection for their skin. 
  • A water-bottle partly filled with cool water or a dampened towel placed on the floor, make handy cooling mats which your pet can lie on. 
  • Learn to recognise the signs of heatstroke; extreme panting, dark red or grey gums, drooling, anxiety, confusion/disorientation, lethargy, vomiting, even diarrhoea. 
  • In cases of suspected heatstroke, seek shade and apply cool but not cold water to the pet’s underarms, groin and pads. Do not immerse or cover the pet with water as this will heat your pet up more. Fan the animal to increase cooling. If he can drink, give small amounts of water but do not force drinking or let him gulp it. Try to keep your pet moving slowly. Speak to a vet as soon as possible. 

It’s mostly common sense but so easy to forget in the heat of the moment! 

Leonie St Clair