Looking after our pets in hot weather

By vet Graham Lewis

Summer’s finally here with the hope of some hot sunny days ahead.

But high temperatures and strong sunshine can cause problems for our pets including heatstroke which can be fatal. Luckily there are simple steps we can take to keep our pets safe.

When a dog gets too hot it is unable to reduce its body temperature by panting, leading to heatstroke – an emergency which requires urgent veterinary attention. Signs include heavy panting, drooling, lethargy and loss of coordination, vomiting and collapse. Move the dog to a cool place and pour cool water over them, avoiding their head. Do not use cold water which can cause shock. And contact a vet immediately. 

Cats can also suffer heatstroke, and the most common cause is being accidentally trapped in a hot poorly ventilated area such as a greenhouse, conservatory, shed or garage. 

It is best to exercise dogs in the early morning or at night avoiding the hottest parts of the day. If your dog is very active, you will need to moderate their exercise. Don’t expect an excited dog to notice the early signs of heatstroke or know how to keep themself safe.

Pets should never be left in vehicles on hot days even with the windows open or in the shade. Cars heat up rapidly even when the outside temperature may not feel very hot to you. If it is 22C outside, the car can reach 47C within an hour.

Although any dog can develop heatstroke, those which are overweight, young, elderly, flat-faced, giant-breed or heavy-coated are especially vulnerable. These dogs may be safer with little or no exercise at all in hot weather. Elderly, overweight, heavy coated and flat-faced cats also have a heightened risk.

A shallow paddling pool in a shady part of your garden will help keep your dog cool and many dogs enjoy them. You can wet a towel with cool – not cold – water and drape it over your dog to cool them down. But don’t leave it there for long, it will soon warm up and start making your dog hotter.

Frozen treats can keep a dog happy and cool – you can use a kong stuffed with treats and frozen, frozen carrots or create a dog friendly ice lick by filling a bowl with water, throwing some treats in and freezing it. 

Never leave any pet shut in a kennel, hutch, crate or any area which is in full sun. They should have access to shade and to clean fresh drinking water at all times.