It might seem strange, given out current poor weather, to be looking at the issue of caring for pets in warmer weather, but even though temperatures at not soaring, it is warmer.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued helpful advice about pet care over the coming months.
Dogs need extra care
Dogs are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. They can 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 walk 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.
Vets’ top warm weather tips:
- 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.
- Rabbits and guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down. Keep the hutch or run away from direct sunlight at all times of the day.
- Flystrike is a life-threatening risk for rabbits and guinea pigs in the warmer months, Check their bottoms twice daily to see if they are clean and to spot early signs of fly eggs or maggots. A ‘sticky bottom’ is not only at much higher risk of flystrike, it may be due to a problem with your rabbit’s teeth or digestion. Speak with your vet for advice on how reduce the risk of flystrike.
- Some breeds of cats and dogs, particularly those with lighter-coloured or finer fur, may also benefit from pet-appropriate sun cream, especially on the ear tips, which are prone to sunburn.
- Spare a thought for wild animals. Keep out bowls of water for wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs
In last year’s record-breaking heatwave, where temperatures soared to in excess of 40C, vets saw fewer cases of heat-related conditions in pets, such as heatstroke, burnt paw pads, sunburn and breathing difficulties, than the hot summer of 2018, which was by comparison significantly cooler. The data was in new figures released by the BVA. They think this is because peopple are now better informed about caring for pets in Warm/hot weather.
The figures are, however, still cause for concern with half (51%) of all vets in the UK in 2022 reporting cases of animals requiring treatment for heat-related conditions compared with 66% in 2018. In both surveys, dogs were the most common type of animal seen with heat-related conditions, seen by 51% of small animal vets in 2022, followed by rabbits (9%) and cats (6%)