We’re a little unaccustomed to hot weather here in the UK, so with the summer holidays almost upon us, we thought it would be good to remind our readers of the importance of keeping your pets cool if the temperature (hopefully!) rises.
Heatstroke can kill
We all know that dogs can die when left alone in hot cars, and yet every year we read more heart-breaking stories. PLEASE never leave your pet alone in a vehicle – in full sun the temperature can rise to deadly levels in a matter of minutes.
If you do see a dog in distress in a parked car, the RSPCA’s advice is to call the Police on 999 (it is a genuine emergency). If the Police are unable to attend, you should call the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line, 0300 1234 999.
You can find more detailed information on this subject here.
Aside from the headlines, there are lots of practical steps you can take to ensure that your pets don’t overheat:
- Always ensure that your pets can move to a cooler, ventilated environment if you are leaving them at home.
- Never leave dogs alone in cars, glass conservatories or caravans, even if it’s cloudy.
- Always provide good supplies of drinking water, in a weighted bowl that can’t be knocked over. Carry water with you on hot days.
- Groom pets regularly to get rid of excess hair. Give long-coated breeds a haircut at the start of summer.
- Never allow dogs to exercise excessively in hot weather – walk dogs in the morning or evening – before 8am and after 5pm is best. Not only will this prevent them overheating in the daytime sun, but road surfaces, pavements and sand can burn paws when hot.
- Dogs can get sunburned – particularly those with light-coloured noses and fur. Ask your vet for pet-safe sunscreen.
- If you have a small furry pet, such as a hamster or gerbil, put a nearly full plastic bottle of water into your freezer and, when frozen, wrap it in a towel and place by the side of the cage, next to the sleeping area, to keep it cool. It’s not a good idea to put the bottle in the cage as it can cause leaks and make the pet too cold. Putting two in the freezer means you’ll always have one available.
- Provide plenty of shade whilst rabbits and guinea pigs are in their runs.
- Fishponds and aquaria can get very hot in the summer – check regularly and make sure the pond has a shaded area where fish can shelter
Dogs are particularly susceptible to heatstroke and the condition can be fatal; short-nosed brachycephalic breeds (e.g. Bulldogs, Pugs), longhaired breeds, old and young animals are most at risk. The signs can include any or all of the following:
- Heavy panting
- Profuse salivation
- Rapid pulse
- Very red gums and tongue
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
If you recognise any of these symptoms in your pet, it’s important to act quickly in order to lower the body temperature gradually, before seeking further advice from a vet:
- Wet with cool (not cold) water – you could use a shower, or gentle hose spray – and place your pet in the breeze of a fan.
- Offer small amounts of cool water to drink as long as your dog is conscious and alert enough to drink
Hot sun is not the only potential hazard your pets may encounter over the summer. We recommend that you check your pet regularly for:
- Grass seeds. These irritants are very sharp at one end, which means that they can easily become embedded in your pet’s skin, causing significant damage. Always remember to check your dog’s paws and ears after summer walks.
- Harvest mites. The larvae of these mites are tiny (just 0.2mm long) yet these orange/yellow insects can trigger allergies and skin disease in susceptible animals. Contact your vet for further advice if you think your pet is affected.
- Stings. Inquisitive dogs and cats can easily get more than they bargained for when chasing insects or sniffing in undergrowth, and a sting on the nose is very painful! As you probably know, if a bee stings your pet, the barbed sting will remain in your pet’s skin and must be removed. The best way to do this is by gently scraping it with a flat object such as a bank card (tweezers may squeeze additional venom out of the stinger). Bathe the affected area with a mix of water and bicarbonate of soda and apply an ice pack if your pet will stay still long enough! Wasp stings are not left behind, and because they are alkaline, the area affected should be bathed with vinegar or lemon juice to neutralise the sting, with an ice pack then applied to the area.
- Snake bites. The adder is the only venomous snake found in the UK – adults are around 60cm long and have brown-black zigzag patterns along their backs, with a V shape on their heads. If you suspect that a snake has bitten your pet, you will see a dark swelling with two puncture marks in the centre – bathe the wound site in cold water to reduce the swelling and contact your vet immediately. Note that bite marks are not always visible. Symptoms of a snake bite can include:
- Pale gums
- Excessive salivation/dribbling
- Drowsiness and lethargy
Of course, with care and common sense any issues your pet encounters can be dealt with quickly and successfully, leaving you and your pet to enjoy the summer while it lasts!
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.