There is nothing worse than watching your (furry) babies suffer.
So, with summer just around the corner, I chatted with Sarah Zito, RSPCA Senior Scientific Director, and veterinarian Elliot O’Farrell for their expertise on the do’s and don’ts of pets and the environment. warm weather.
Whether you have a cat, dog, rabbit, or a menagerie of wild animals, here are some species-specific tips to keep your pets cool this season.
Dr. Zito says that the focus on animals experiencing heat stress or heat stroke tends to be on dogs. Makes sense: they hang out with us a lot.
“But all animals are susceptible to overheating,” explains Dr. Zito.
“Small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are also very susceptible to heat stroke.”
Getting too hot can turn into heat stress, and this can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal.
If your animal is brachycephalic, has respiratory or heart problems, is overweight, has long or heavy fur, or is very young or old, Dr. Zito and Dr. O’Farrell say you’ll want to take extra steps to prevent it from getting too hot. , regardless of the species.
“If your animal is behaving unusually [on a hot day]that’s an indicator to take them to the vet,” says Dr. O’Farrell.
How to avoid heat stress and heat stroke
Dr. Zito and Dr. O’Farrell say that the best things any of us can do to prevent situations like these are:
- Never leave an animal in a car or vehicle, even if the windows are down.
- Always provide your animals with cool, shaded areas with good ventilation.
- Make sure they have access to clean, fresh water in containers that won’t tip over easily. Place this water in cool, shady areas. You can also add ice to their water on hot days or give them chilled water.
- Provide extra sources of water in case they accidentally spill some of their regular container.
- Take your animals inside if it’s colder in there.
- Consider providing a water bath for species such as dogs and birds.
- Think about whether cooling mats might work for your animal.
- Try freezing water in containers, wrap them in a towel, and place some around the house/enclosure, giving your animal the option of lying near them to cool off if desired.
- Consider cutting your long-haired or thick-haired animal’s coat during the summer.
Now onto the species-specific tips.
On hot days, experts recommend going for a walk early in the morning or in the evening.
“You don’t want your dogs outside during hot periods of the day,” says Dr. O’Farrell.
“Ideally they would be indoors under a fan or air conditioning.”
Pay attention to the surfaces you walk on. Hot asphalt and sand can burn dogs’ feet and Dr. Zito says this is “unfortunately quite common.”
For something fun, try giving your dog a frozen rubber toy filled with safe foods that you know your best friend loves.
“Then it becomes a nurturing thing that your dog can enjoy hanging out and licking and finding little surprises inside while cooling off at the same time,” says Dr. Zito.
As for dog warning signs?
“For your brachycephalics, if they’re panting uncontrollably and have bloodshot eyes, you’ll definitely want to take them to the vet,” says Dr. O’Farrell.
“At the very least, cover them with a cold, wet towel and give them a fan. Because if their core temperature goes above 41 degrees, irreversible organ damage will occur.”
Cats, on the other hand, are generally quite good at finding cool places for themselves and use as little energy as possible during the hottest hours of the day.
That’s why Dr. Zito says caring for cats on scorching hot days is mostly about giving them options.
This could mean putting out a cooling rug, making sure they have access to bathroom tiles, or some nice shade in the garden if they’re allowed there.
Dr. O’Farrell says you might as well consider making them an indoor-only kitty until the heat passes.
For a quick cool down, your cat would obviously hate you if you drenched it in water. Alternatively, Dr. Zito says, “Just rub them down with a damp towel to help cool them down a bit.”
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, ferrets, chickens, and birds
Experts say it’s very important to think about animals confined in enclosures on hot days.
At the very least, they say you want to make sure your enclosure is located in a cool, shady, and well-ventilated area.
If you experience a series of hot days and find that your living conditions do not meet these standards, you may need to move your enclosure or them.
Dr. Zito explains the reason bluntly: “Although you may not want to move them or bring them inside, the extreme heat can be life-threatening.”
Dr. O’Farrell says investing in one, or more, 90 percent shade cloths might be a good way to avoid having to resort to that.
“Sometimes you have to double coat it. You might have the shade cloth on top of the span and then a shade sail on top of that.”
Dr. Zito says you might also consider running a pedestal fan near the coop or enclosure.
“But make sure they have the option to be up front or not, depending on how they feel.”
This also applies to chickens when they have hatching eggs (or think they do).
“Breeder hens are subjected to very extreme conditions without moving, so it’s important to monitor them closely,” says Dr. Zito.
“You could also try putting some ice blocks in a part of the nesting boxes that they can move closer to or further away from.”
Hot days also provide a great opportunity to get creative with the species-safe cooling treats your animals obviously deserve.
Chickens, for example, love frozen peas, corn, strawberries, cucumber, and watermelon. Cutting small pieces of these not only helps cool them down, but also enriches them and keeps them entertained.
This article contains general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice in relation to your particular circumstances.
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