Our Top Tips on How to Keep your Pet Cool in the Summer by Veterinary Surgeon, Dr Odile Sicouri
So far, it’s been a surprisingly hot summer in Britain. While most of us humans enjoy the opportunity to lap up a little sun, we need to be thinking about our furry friends and how they are coping with the rise in temperatures.
Our pets often struggle with the heat as they don’t have the same coping mechanisms as us. Firstly, they don’t really sweat. They only have a small number of sweat glands, mainly in their paws. They need to lose heat by panting or seeking out shade or cool environments and by minimal exertion.
Cats can cool down by grooming themselves as their saliva acts as a cooling agent to increase heat loss from the skin by evaporation. Elderly or sick animals, whose bodies are already compromised, often become unwell with the hot weather as they are unable to cope with the extra physiological stress. Brachycephalic dogs and cats( eg Bulldogs, Pugs and Persian cats) are particularly vulnerable as they have a reduced ability to cool themselves down with their facial conformation and often restricted upper airways.
IN ORDER TO LOOK AFTER YOUR FURRY FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE HOT WEATHER, I RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING:
1/ Minimise exercise or travel during the warmer parts of the day. Limit their exercise to the early mornings and late evenings when the sun is either coming up or going down. If you have one of those super active or ‘ball-crazy’ dogs, beware about letting them over do it.
2/ Always have fresh water available. Cats should always have multiple water stations at home, at least one away from their food bowls, to provide them with a reminder to keep hydrated. Collapsible/Travel Water bowls are a good idea when you are en route somewhere. Ice cubes (flavoured with food juices, if necessary for those pets that need some encouragement) are an alternative means for increasing water intake at home or when you are out and about.
3/ Wet towels or flannels and water mist sprays can be helpful to dampen your pets fur and paws to increase heat loss (rememberer this is where they lose most heat from, apart from their mouths). Cool coats and mats are also a great idea for indoor and outdoor use.
* Remember that firstly It is important to not let our pets overheat, but if they do, you must cool them down gradually, to avoid rapid variations in their core temperature.
4/ Never ever leave your pets inside a car or room where there isn't enough ventilation. Dogs especially need to pant to lose heat, so fresh (ideally cool) air, is important for temperature control and adequate oxygen exchange.
Odile Sicouri is of French-Mediterranean parentage and grew up in Western Australia, in an environment where animals were an important and ever present part of the familial landscape.
She has made London her home for the past 15 years and has worked in a variety of small animal practices in London. In the past, she has worked with endangered marsupials in Australia, with Orang-utans in Borneo and has devoted time to charities in Morocco and India.
Her approach to pet health care is holistic. She wants people to look at their pets as a ‘whole’. To refrain from humanising them too much but to understand that they do have individual needs. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to our pets’ health care, and ultimately, their welfare.
She is passionate about all animals and the role that vets should play in educating the public about some of the more contentious issues. With the rise in popularity of breeds that are often selected for physical traits that disadvantage them, it seems that role is more important than ever.
The impact of pet ownership on the environment is also something that she wants people to pro-actively think about.
She lives with her rescue cat, Leonard. He teaches her patience.