High temperatures aren’t fun for everyone, especially pets who can be prone to sun burn and heatstroke as much as humans.
“All animals can suffer in the heat and it’s really important that we take extra special care of our pets during extremely hot and extremely cold weather,” RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines tells HuffPost UK.
With temperatures expected to hit the 30s this week, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your furry friends stay safe during the hot weather.
When should you take your dog for a walk?
Dogs still need regular exercise even when it’s hot, but avoid any excessive activity in hot weather. Instead, take advantage of the cooler hours first thing in the morning and evening. Gaines’ top tip? “If the pavement is too hot to touch with your hands, then it’s too hot for a dog’s paws.”
Don’t leave your dog or cat in vehicles, caravans or conservatories.
If you have a dog, it goes without saying that you should not leave them in a locked space such as a car. They can overheat and, in worst cases, die.
The RSPCA recommends avoiding transporting animals such as sheep and horses unless absolutely necessary, and if you have a house pet such as a cat, keep them somewhere ventilated, near shade and check on them regularly.
If you have a cat, or even just space in your garden for your pet to roam around, encourage them to stay in shaded areas, away from direct sunlight and put your sprinkler on for dogs.
Do pets need suncream?
In short, yes. According to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, animals with lighter-coloured fur are more likely to be at risk of getting sunburnt and they recommend, if your pet allows of course, applying animal friendly sun cream to the areas most exposed, especially the end of the nose and tips of the ears.
Research by pet brand Webbox found 51% of pet owners admit to never using sun protection on their animals. Cat owners are the least likely to ensure their pets are protected, with 69% admitting to never applying sun cream.
Dogs and cats can get sunburn and skin cancer, just like people. Veterinarian Dr Heather Venkat warns that some animals will try to lick the sunscreen off, which is why it is important to never use a sun cream designed for humans.
If you’re unsure of what suncream is appropriate, Battersea’s spokesperson suggests using one that is titanium dioxide-based and avoiding any that contain zinc oxide. Don’t be afraid to speak to your vet first.
Should you shave your dog?
No. Dr Venkat explains: “The number one rule is to not shave your long-coated dog in the summer. It can actually make them more hot and prone to sunburns due to the loss in protection of their insulating layers of fur.”
What are the signs of heatstroke in cats and dogs?
Cats and dogs are affected by the sun in the same way humans are and, as a result, are also susceptible to heatstroke. Battersea Cats and Dogs urges cat and dog owners to look out for behaviour that suggests their pet is unwell including heavy panting, stretching out and breathing rapidly, extreme distress, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, vomiting, diarrhoea and drooling with skin hot to the touch.
If you think your cat or dog has heatstroke you should call your vet immediately for further advice.
How do I keep my pet cool?
If you suspect your pet is overheating or simply want to take preventative measures, Gaines suggests wrapping an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel, using damp towels for your pet to lie on, or freezing your pet’s water bowl and adding ice cubes to it. If you have the room, fill a paddling pool for your pets to play in.
What about other animals?
If your pet is not of the fluffy variety, it’s still important to stay aware of the risks that excessive heat poses. Ensure any animals have access to drinking water and shade at all times. “Keep pesticides out of reach of animals, and use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly from pet-friendly ingredients,” says Gaines. She also recommends keeping fish tanks out of direct sunlight and topping up water levels of ponds.