As England and many parts of Scotland see soaring temperatures over the next few days Vets are sending out a timely reminder about how extreme heat levels affect our pets.
Dogs may particularly struggle to stay cool in high temperatures and humid conditions since, unlike humans, they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, making them vulnerable to overheating.
Even a very short in the middle of the day or being locked in a car for a few minutes can prove to be fatal. Flat-faced breeds such as English or French bulldogs and pugs are at even greater risk, as their short muzzles can make breathing difficult, and therefore they struggle to cool down through panting, which is a dog’s main way to cool its body temperature. Overweight animals and densely coated animals are also at increased risk.
Like dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down, which is why it’s important that their hutch or run isn’t exposed to direct sunlight at any time of the day Flystrike is also a life-threatening risk for them in the warmer months, so daily inspection around their back end and under their tail is essential. Seek veterinary advice immediately if you see any maggots.
Some breeds of cats and dogs, particularly those with lighter-coloured or finer fur, may also benefit from appropriate sun cream, especially on the ear tips, which are prone to sunburn. In the case of chronic exposure, it can even lead to potentially dangerous skin cancers. Among dogs, breeds such as Dalmatians, Beagles, Whippets, white Boxers and white English Bull Terriers are among the most commonly affected.
Cats who like sunbathing on windowsills are also at risk of exposing themselves to a lot of sunlight through windows that are generally not UVA-protected. Blue-eyed white cats are most susceptible, as well as the white-haired skin areas of short-haired cats.
Vets’ top tips from the British Veterinary Association:
- Make sure all pets always have access to fresh water to drink, adequate ventilation and shade from direct sunlight at all times. This includes birds in cages or aviaries and rabbits in hutches. Provide extra shade to guinea pigs by covering the top of wire mesh runs with damp towels.
- Don’t exercise dogs in the hottest parts of the day: especially older dogs, overweight dogs, flat-faced breeds or dogs that you know have heart or lung problems. Stick to early morning or late evening walks.
- Do the five-second tarmac test before taking a dog out for a walk; if it feels too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
- Never leave dogs in vehicles. If you see a dog in distress inside a hot car, call 999.
- Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, drooling, restlessness, bright red or very pale gums, and lack of coordination. Signs of heatstroke in rabbits include drooling, salivating, lethargy, short and shallow breaths, red and warm ears, wet nose and seizures.
- If heatstroke or any other heat-related condition is suspected, take your pets to a cool, well-ventilated place, give it small amounts of cool (not ice-cold) water to drink, and pour room-temperature water over it to cool it down. Seek immediate advice from your vet.
- Spare a thought for wild animals. Keep out bowls of water for wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs.