9 ways to keep your pet cool this weekend

This weekend, the weather forecast is for “dangerous heat” across NSW and extreme heat across Australia. It’s important to keep your pets safe from heat stress, says Dr Anne Quain, clinical vet and lecturer in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science.
photo of a sleeping cat

Keep your pets cool indoors with a fan or air conditioning on hot days. Photos: Pixabay

“Whether you live with dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds or other companion animals, you need to pay attention to the daily forecast – not just this weekend, but every day,” said Dr Quain, clinical vet and lecturer in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science.

“Climate change means that we are experiencing higher temperatures on hot days, and hot days are becoming more frequent.

“That means everyone caring for companion animals needs a hot weather plan, and they’re going to have to enact it several times throughout summer. High temperatures can be deadly for pets.

“Animals are prone to heat stress, in part because they cannot control the environments they are in. If you care for animals, you need to ensure that they are in a well-ventilated environment, with access to shade all day.”

photo of a woman looking at her rabbit in a hutch

Animals in cages or hutches are particularly vulnerable to heat stress. Bring them indoors temporarily. Photo: Pixabay

“On extremely hot days, animals may need indoor access,” Dr Quain said.

“Animals kept in hutches, cages or aviaries are particularly vulnerable and may require temporary indoor housing. Brachycephalic or flat faced breeds of dogs, such as Pugs, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, are very vulnerable to heat stress as they cannot cool down easily.

“One positive in 2020 is that many people are fortunate enough to be able to work from home at least some days. This means that they can be home to observe and care for animals on very hot days.”

Photo of pug in a swimming pool

Brachycephalic or flat faced breeds of dogs, such as Pugs, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, are very vulnerable to heat stress as they cannot cool down easily. Photo: Pixabay

Heat stress tips:

1. Check the forecast every day

The weather can be unpredictable so check the forecast every day. Don’t leave your pets at home unprepared for hot weather.

2. Develop a hot weather plan

This may involve moving animals normally housed outside indoors temporarily, having a neighbour or friend check on animals, rescheduling planned activities, leaving a fan or air conditioner on. If you don’t have somewhere cool to keep animals, you may need to board them in an air conditioned facility during heatwaves.

3. Minimise exercise

Keep to short walks in the cooler parts of the day – usually early in the morning or late in the evening. Refrain from exercising animals in the hotter parts of the day.

photo of two dogs on hot concrete

Hot surfaces are bad for dogs’ feet. Photo: Pixabay

4. Avoid walking on hot surfaces

We wear shoes – they don’t. When the ambient temperature is just 25 degrees, the temperature of the footpath in the full sun can reach 50 degrees.

5. Monitor the temperature indoors

If necessary, use a fan or air conditioner. Ideally, someone should be home with the animal(s). Or keep the air conditioner or fan on a timer.

6. Give pets a cool place to sit

Outside pavers and concrete get very hot. Make sure you have a cool surface for your pet to sit or lie on.

7. Offer plenty of water

Ensure cool, fresh water is available from multiple sources throughout the day. Animals may drink more than usual on a hot day. You can add a few ice cubes to water bowls.

photo of a rainbow lorikeets drinking water from a birdbath

Pet birds and native birds need plenty to drink on hot days. Photo: Elissa Blake

8. Never leave pets in the car

Never leave animals unattended in cars, even for a few minutes. The temperature inside a car can reach life-threatening levels within minutes and animals cannot let themselves out.

9. Call your vet

If you are concerned that your pet is showing signs of heat stress, contact your closest veterinarian immediately.

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