So far, it’s been a pretty hot summer in Britain, with record-breaking temperatures in some areas of the UK. 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 physical stress. Brachycephalic dogs and cats (eg Bulldogs, Pugs and Persian cats) are particularly vulnerable as they have a reduced ability to cool themselves down because of their facial structure and often restricted upper airways. But fear not! There are many little changes we can make to help our four-legged friends feel more comfortable. Here are our top tips for taking care of your furry family members during these hot months;
- Minimise exercise or travel during the warmest parts of the day. It is best to limit your pets exercise to the early mornings and late evenings when the sun is either coming up or going down. If you have a very active dog or one who loves to play fetch, be aware you are not letting them overdo it. If you have an outdoor cat, it can be best to try and limit their outdoor time to ensure that they aren't overdoing it.
- Always have fresh water available. Cats should always have multiple water stations at home with at least one away from their food bowls. Cat fountains that keep the water moving can be good for fussy cats who don't like to drink. Collapsible or travel water bowls are a good investment for those of us with dogs as they can be taken on walks and car journeys. Ice cubes are a fun way of increasing water intake at home or when you are out and about. If you have a fussy pet that really doesn't like to drink water, adding a tiny amount of milk, yogurt or bone broth to their water can encourage them to drink more.
- 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). Cooling mats are also a great idea for indoor and outdoor use. If you have an outside space, setting up a small pool or plastic tub of water in a shaded area is good for dogs to go and cool off, just make sure that the water is changed regularly to avoid your pup getting poorly.
- 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. Avoid putting your pet in the car at all when it is hot outside. Cars retain heat and can also be stressful for your pet. It is better for your dog to miss a walk than to be driven to the park in a hot car.
- Why not try making some cooling treats for your cats and dogs? We have some great recipes that you can make at home here. There are also some brilliant frozen treats that you can buy in store, or simply freeze some of your pets favourite food or treats to help them cool down.
- Learn the signs of heat stroke in cats and dogs and know how to act if you spot the signs. Heat stroke is incredibly serious and can cause damage to your pet's internal organs, which can sadly be life-threatening. Some of the symptoms of heat stroke include; excessive panting, drooling, restlessness, confusion, collapsing, bright red tongue, vomiting, diarrhoea and more. If you suspect that your pet may have heat stroke you must act immediately. Move your pet to a cooler environment, place cool towels on them, put a fan in front of them and call your vet.
Stay cool & stay safe!