Our climate is so variable that the first sign of hot weather prompts us to spend as much time as we can outside. However, in our eagerness to soak up those rays of sun we can forget about risks to our pets, especially youngsters and elderly animals. 

On very hot days, all animals require access to shade and to water. Outdoor runs may get way too hot and indoor cats may swelter in a stuffy house with little ventilation. Long-coated animals may get too hot to sleep at night and get grumpy as a result. So, next time you check the weather, have a plan to help out your animals too. 

Regular grooming is an obvious one, lots of dead fur close to the skin will create irritation. Keeping the coat matt free and brushed will allow air to circulate and help cool, the animal. It’s also a good idea to ensure your animal does not have any open cuts or irritated skin. Fly-strike can be deadly. Similarly dogs that swim in salt water or get sand in wet fur are at risk of irritated skin. 

The pet animal most likely to suffer in a sudden heat wave is the dog as his choices are few. It is vital to remember that dogs can overheat very easily, especially flat-faced and bully breeds, which may experience breathing issues in hot, humid weather. Dogs cannot sweat through their skin; they cool off by panting and through sweat glands in the paws. However, keeping cool expends a lot of energy and can be exhausting. 

Here is a check list to help keep your dog safe. 

  • Avoid walking or outings in the hottest part of the day, especially with a young or old dog 
  • Don’t go running or cycling with your dog when it’s hot 
  • Always take water and access to or the means to create cool shade 
  • If your dog refuses to walk on the lead do not force him, consider what is going on; is the pavement or sand painfully hot, is he thirsty, is he able to breathe? 
  • Animals with arthritis may well experience more discomfort in hot, humid weather 
  • Packing a towel that can be dampened for your pet to lie on creates a quickie cooling pad 
  • Do not drape a wet towel over your dog, this will heat him up, splash tepid water on his tummy and under his legs 
  • Don’t leave dogs tied up outside cafes or shops in hot weather- or any time 
  • Do not leave your dog in a vehicle, caravan or hot rooms like a conservatory 

The last and most important point is to recognise signs of heatstroke. This kills hundreds of dogs every year. Heavy panting, drooling, drowsiness, diarrhoea, vomiting, staggering can all be signs of heatstroke. If you have been in hot weather and your dog develops any of these signs get him to a vet immediately- it is a medical emergency. 

Leonie St Clair