Scorching sun, thundering rain? Keep your pets safe this summer, whatever the weather…
When it comes to the Great British weather, one thing’s for certain – expect the unexpected. From scorching heatwaves to unseasonable chills and cloud-busting storms, you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Us humans do our best to be prepared for all eventualities. Does setting off with a sun hat and umbrella, sunglasses and waterproofs, sandals and wellies sound familiar?
For our pets – who rely on us to help them stay cool when it’s sweltering and cosy and dry during a downpour – it’s important to plan for all weather eventualities. Our top tips and expert advice for dogs, cats and small furries can help.
DID YOU KNOW?
Unlike us humans who have sweat glands all over our bodies to help us regulate our temperature, animals lack the ability to cool themselves down as easily, which is why hot weather can really affect them. Dogs and cats only have a few sweat glands around their noses and in their feet and rely on panting to cool themselves down. Small pets – such as rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets – don’t sweat and can’t pant, and so find high temperatures even more difficult. Chinchillas have no ability to dissipate heat and can be at risk of fatal seizures when the mercury rises.
A dog for all seasons
Our canine companions love to follow our lead, which is why we need to show them how best to beat the heat and cope with summer storms.
CHANGE UP YOUR ROUTINE Your dog walking routine may run like clockwork but, In the height of summer, it’s time to switch things around. Between noon and 3pm, as well as the burning rays of the sun to contend with, pavements can be hot enough to burn paws. Certain flat-faced breeds who can suffer from breathing issues, such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers, should never be exercised in the heat of the day. Veterinary charity PDSA suggests:
- Walk early or late – Avoid walking your dog in the hottest part of the day – early mornings and evenings will be much more comfortable for you both.
- Set an easy pace – Encourage your dog to slow down by setting a slower pace and giving them plenty of time to sniff out exciting smells with their nose.
- Be wary of hot pavements and roads – Hot surfaces can really hurt your dog’s foot pads, particularly tarmac or sand. If these surfaces feel too hot for you, the chances are your dog’s thinking the same.
- Keep to shady areas – Plan your walks and try to include places where there is shade.
- Short and sweet – Take two or three short walks throughout the day, instead of one long one.
CREATE COOL SPACES Make sure your dog has a shady spot in the garden to rest in. Trees and shrubs create natural shade, but you can also hang a tarpaulin or put up a gazebo. Create a chill out room indoors with a fan and some cool, damp towels for your dog to lie on. Provide some dry food inside food puzzles or treat balls to keep your dog stimulated without too much exertion.
SEEK OUT SOME COOL STUFF There are now all sorts of cooling products available that are designed especially for pets. From pet cooling mats and pads, which automatically cool when your dog sits on them, to cooling vests that simply needed to be wetted to activate their cooling properties. A dog paddling pool can also provide a fun space for your canine chum to cool off in your garden. Even a humble washing up bowl filled with water will give your dog the opportunity to cool off their paws.
DID YOU KNOW?
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is a great way to help them during hot weather – being heavier than they should makes it harder for them to stay cool. Find out more about managing your pet’s weight >>
BE WATER WISE Most dogs love splashing about in water and it’s a great way to keep your canine chum cool on a hot summer’s day. However, whether it’s at the beach or along the riverbank, it’s essential to choose the right swimming locations and avoid potential hazards, including water-borne diseases that can make your dog seriously ill. When it comes to water, it should always be a case of safety first.
DECIDE IF HOME OR AWAY IS BEST if you’re planning a fun day out, it’s tempting to take your dog with you. However, spending prolonged periods of time in the sunshine without shade poses a really serious risk to your canine companion. Depending on where you’re planning to go and what you’re hoping to do, it may be better to leave your dog at home –but for no more than four hours. Speaking to Your Dog magazine, RSPCA pet welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines, said: “It will be tempting during the hot weather for us to want to spend lots of time outside with our families and take our pets, but taking our dogs out with us for walks or to the park could really put them at risk of suffering heat stroke or exhaustion.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Summer means endless days to enjoy time outdoors with our animal chums, but it also means being aware of all sorts of hazards – from fleas and ticks, nasty diseases such as lungworm, not to mention insect stings and even snake bites >>
PREPARE FOR A STORM WARNING Summer lightning often comes as a bit of a surprise. After sweltering days of endless sunshine, the hot, heavy air suddenly cools and then splinters with a thunderous crash. And, while unexpected loud noises are enough to make both humans and animals jump, for dogs with noise sensitivities, it can become just too much to deal with. Distracting your canine chum and drowning out bangs and crashes by turning up the TV or radio are just some of the ways you can help your dog to cope.
BE HOME AND DRY Wet and stormy weather can also mean soggy doggies, muddy paws across the kitchen floor and streaks along the wall after the traditional doggy ‘big wet shake’. However, there are all sorts of innovative products that can help. From waterproof jackets to paw cleaning kits and microfibre dog towels and dog drying jackets that will get your dog clean and dry in no time.
IN CAR WARNING – NOT LONG IS TOO LONG!
Never, ever leave a pet in a parked car unattended, even for a short while. When it’s 22°C/72°F outside, the temperature inside a car can reach 47°C/117°F within 60 minutes. Leaving a window open or a sunshield on windscreens won’t keep your car cool enough. The same applies to caravans, conservatories or outbuildings.
More helpful advice for caring for your dog this summer:
- Check out our 10-point guide to making travelling in the car with your dog a positive, happy experience this summer >>
- From planning your road trip (comfort, safety, and plenty of pitstops) to your location (are there dog-friendly beaches and places to visit nearby?) find out how to have a happy holiday with your dog >>
- Fancy going wild in the country with your canine chum this summer? Before you set off to hike up hilltops, tackle forest trails or power along coastal paths, make sure you’re both well prepared for outdoor adventures >>
- From buddying up with pet-owning friends to share holiday care duties, to a traditional boarding kennels or cattery, or even hiring a pet sitter to look after your four-legged friends in the comfort of their own home – find out which holiday care option is best for your pets >>
All weather cats
Canny cats will no doubt know exactly where the best shady spots are to be found when the sun is high, and secret nooks to shelter in when it’s pouring with rain, but they still need help from their human.
GIVE THEM SHELTER While cats are notorious sun seekers, providing shelter from harsh rays is vital. If your garden doesn’t have much natural shade then it could be worth investing in a large, free-standing parasol or a ‘pop up’ sun shelter, like those used at the beach. Encourage your pets to seek out these shaded areas by placing a familiar blanket down for them. Likewise, providing an outdoor cat house will provide a dry, safe space during a downpour.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO COME INSIDE Try to keep your cat indoors during the hottest times of the day – usually between 11am and 3pm. Also apply a pet sunscreen (not a human one) to the nose and ear tips of pale-coloured cats when they do go outside. While we humans are well aware of the dangers of spending too much time in the sun, the same is true for our pets. Although their fur provides a little protection, just like us, cats can suffer from sunburn and, in some cases, sun damage can lead to skin cancer.
PROVIDE SOME INDOOR ENTERTAINMENT To encourage your feline friend to stay in out of the heat – or torrential rain – give them some indoor activities to do. For example, cats love to climb and hide, so getting a cat activity centre or even a selection of cardboard boxes will be a fun distraction. Adding some toys that contain dried catnip, puzzle feeders filled with tasty dry cat food nuggets, and intriguing cat water fountains will keep them entertained. Specially grown cat grass can add some welcome variety to your favourite feline’s indoor environment.
MAKE IT EASY BREEZY Keep a room in your house cool and well-ventilated by drawing curtains and opening windows if there’s a breeze, so your cat has a cool, comfy place to rest. Remember that cats love to nap and will happily snooze for up to 16 hours a day! Let your cat choose a cool place to lie down. They’ll naturally gravitate towards a slate floor, the kitchen sink or by a fan in summer, just as they’ll curl up in a warm place in winter. Take special care of flat-faced breeds, such as Persians, as they will struggle with their breathing in the heat.
LET YOUR CLEVER CAT GROOM TO STAY COOL Don’t worry if your cat seems to be grooming more than usual. This is a cooling mechanism similar to sweating – as the saliva evaporates off their fur, your cat will cool down.
DID YOU KNOW?
Regular grooming is really important during hot weather. Brush long-haired cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs daily as matted fur traps heat. Medium-haired breeds will need brushing a few times a week to remove the dead hairs. Short-haired breeds will just need a weekly going over. If it looks like a prolonged heatwave has set in, some pets may benefit from a summer trim.
KEEP A CHECK ON THEIR WHEREABOUTS If you’re going out, or shutting doors due to sudden showers, always check sheds, conservatories, greenhouses, summer houses, outhouses and garages to ensure your cat hasn’t strolled in and is locked inside where it could quickly become dangerously hot. Cats Protection has a handy ‘Look before you lock’ door hanger to remind you.
More helpful advice for caring for your cat this summer:
- If you have a cat companion who rarely spends times indoors, find out how to keep your outdoor-loving cat safe and sound >>
- Providing your favourite feline with an entrancing outdoor space that they’ll want to spend lots of time in will help to keep them safely out of mischief >>
- Indoor cats need plenty of activities to enable them to display a normal range of behaviours that keep them mentally alert and physically fit >>
- You may have created a home that’s just perfect for you – but what does your cat think about it? How cat friendly is your home? >>
DID YOU KNOW?
Pets need to stay hydrated and should have constant access to clean, cool water. One way to encourage pets to drink more – particularly cats who often turn their feline noses up at a still bowl of water – is a pet water fountain. Ferrets are likely to enjoy this too.
Make it a safe summer for small furries
Our small outdoor pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets need help to handle sweltering days and wet weather wipe-outs.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE SUN Look at where the sun’s rays are positioned throughout the day and reposition your outdoor pets’ accommodation so that they’re sheltered from the sun’s direct rays. A blanket placed on top of one end of your pets’ run will provide a shady, cool place. The same applies for the homes of indoor pets – move them well away from windows and draw the curtains. Using an electric fan in the room where indoor pets live can help keep the air circulating. Just make sure the fan is not near enough for any wires to be reachable and never direct it straight at your pet’s cage.
TRY THE TOWEL TRICK Drape well-rung out cold wet towels over hutches or cages to cool them down. Be wary of plastic guinea-pig igloos as these can become very hot in the summer and are best replaced by an alternative hidey-hole such as a cardboard box with an entrance and ventilation holes cut into it.
DAMP IT DOWN For hot rabbits and guinea pigs, try gently stroking their fur with a cool, damp flannel – with bunnies, carefully damp their ears too, as this is the part of their body that they lose heat from. As the water evaporates, it will provide a cooling effect.
SEEK OUT COOLING PRODUCTS Ice Pod is an innovative product that’s suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and rats. Simply place the frozen Ice Pod in your pet’s hutch, run or favourite hiding place and they’ll love lying on its snuggly shape. You can also make your own small pet coolers. Litre plastic bottles, three-quarters filled with water and popped in the freezer, can be placed under a towel so that your rabbit or ferret can lean against them. Keep a close eye so that no chewing ensues.
RAMP UP YOUR CLEANING ROUTINE Clean your small furries accommodation more regularly in summer to reduce the risk of flies and unwanted insects being attracted to them and to avoid flystrike – a painful, sometimes fatal condition caused by flies laying eggs that hatch into maggots and eat their host’s flesh. Speak to your vet about preventative measures such as Rearguard – a liquid that is applied by sponge and helps prevents flystrike in rabbits for up to 10 weeks, or Fly Strike Protector for guinea pigs. Remove any uneaten vegetables as soon as possible, as these can start to rot in the warmer weather attracting flies to your runs and hutches
HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION When it comes to small pets, fresh water should be supplied morning and evening – be extra-vigilant about evaporation. If your pets’ water bottle is turning green with algae, then it is important that you scrub it clean and disinfect it with hot water and white vinegar before rinsing it thoroughly. If you can’t remove the algae, then throw the bottle away and buy a new one.
GIVE YOUR SMALL PETS’ ACCOMMODATION AN MOT Check for any damage or holes that could let the rain in and make sure your pets always got plenty of good quality feeding hay and paper bedding in their housing so they can feel snug if there’s a summer storm. There are lots of useful tips here – Adapting your rabbits’ housing for the changing seasons and Adapting your guinea pigs’ housing for the changing seasons. Ferrets thrive in a temperature of 15-21°C all year-round – you can find some useful ferret housing tips here.
More helpful advice for caring for your small pets this summer:
- When it comes to protecting our small pets from mites, fleas, flies, ticks and mosquitoes – and any other irritating and unwelcome pests – a four-pronged attack is the best approach >>
- You may not have a big budget, but as long as you’ve got a little imagination, you can turn unwanted items from around the house into interesting features for your pets’ environment >>
- Once traditionally always housed outdoors, many people enjoy keeping their guinea pigs or rabbits as indoor pets – and there are all sorts of reasons why >>
- Did you know that just like hospital specialists, vets have different areas of expertise? That’s why, if you have small pets, it can be a good idea to seek out a vet that specialises in small animal medicine >>
*** AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT HEATSTROKE ***
Heatstroke occurs when heat generation exceeds the body’s ability to lose heat. As an animal’s body temperature rises, they will suffer heat exhaustion and eventually heatstroke. If the body temperature is not brought down, serious organ damage or death can result. Heatstroke is an emergency situation that needs treatment right away.
Any pet, even those who are young, fit and healthy, can get heatstroke. However, some pets are more vulnerable, such as:
- Flat-faced dog breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Shih Tzus
- Persian cats
- Netherland Dwarf and Lionhead rabbits
- Pets with very thick fur
- Old or very young pets
- Overweight pets
- Pets with breathing or lung problems
- Pets on certain medication
Our in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, outlines everything you need to know about heatstroke including the signs to watch out for and what actions to take here >>
Burgess Pet Care is a British, family-owned company and one of the UK’s leading pet food manufacturers. Supporting British farmers and using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, its story goes back more than 300 years >>
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