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How to keep your cats, dogs and other pets cool during the heatwave

With the Met Office warning that temperatures could rise even further to 43°C (109°F) tomorrow, even healthy people could be struck down by the heatwave,

This poses an even more dangerous threat to our pets, many of which don a permanent jacket of fur regardless of the season.

Veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) told MailOnline how owners can keep their dogs, cats and small furries safe in the hot weather.

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing advised creating a special ‘cool room’ in the house with open windows and fans creating a breeze for indoor pets.

She also recommends putting ice cubes in their water bowl and making sure that they do not have access to spaces likely to overheat, like conservatories and greenhouses.

Ms Downing has also said what not to do, as while it may seem tempting to give them a lick of ice cream or cover them with a towel, it could prove fatal.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she said:  ‘On a hot day, many dogs will enjoy a refreshing spray of water, which is perfect directly from the tap, but if you’re using the hose, make sure it hasn’t got dangerously hot in the sun.

‘Most cats will not appreciate getting soaked, but may still enjoy a gentle misting spray, or you can leave a shallow paddling pool out in the garden so they can dip in as they choose!’

As cats are often free to roam about of their own accord, it can be difficult to ensure their safety during bouts of extreme weather. However there are things you can do to ensure they have the ability to keep themselves at safe temperature while outdoors (stock image)

If a small furry pet is kept in an outdoor hutch or run, they may find it hard to escape the sunshine if overheating. It is important to move their enclosure into the shade (stock image)

If a small furry pet is kept in an outdoor hutch or run, they may find it hard to escape the sunshine if overheating. It is important to move their enclosure into the shade (stock image)

How to keep cats cool

As cats are often free to roam about of their own accord, it can be difficult to ensure their safety during bouts of extreme weather.

However there are things you can do to ensure they have the ability to keep themselves at safe temperature while outdoors.

This includes ensuring there are shady spots in areas where they often wander, and leaving out bowls of cold water in different locations to encourage them to drink.

Ms Downing said: ‘During extreme heat, try to encourage your cat to stay at home and out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. 

‘Many cats will seek out cooler spots, but if you have a sun lover, you may need to step in and bring them inside out of the heat. 

‘This is an essential part of protecting your cat from heatstroke, which can be fatal.

‘You can encourage them to nap indoors during the heat by playing with them at dawn and dusk, and offering their breakfast a little later to persuade them to stay at home. 

‘Give your cat the opportunity to head out early morning and later in the evening if they want to when temperatures have dropped.’

It is also a good idea to lock enclosed spaces that cats like to explore, like sheds, garages and greenhouses, as their risk of heatstroke is high if they become shut in.

If you cannot lock them during the day, it is a good idea to have a check for any cats before closing them up at night.  

For cats that stay on the property, experts advise to provide them with cool mats and freezing some of their kibble or treats in bowls of water or ice cube trays.

Ms Downing said:  ‘Having a cool, shaded place for your cat to retreat to throughout the day is essential – you can close the curtains on the hot side of the house, and create a refreshing breeze with fans and open windows. 

‘Just remember that cats are curious, so put netting across any high windows to prevent accidents, and make sure that the fans are out of reach so they can’t be knocked over by mischievous paws.’

Cats are also susceptible to sun burn, especially on thin-furred areas or areas with no fur, such as the ears and nose, so Ms Downing recommends rubbing in some pet-safe sun cream.

She said:  ‘Although fur is a great sun barrier, cats can still get sunburnt. 

‘Cats that are hairless, such as Sphynx cats, or light in colour such as ginger or white cats, are especially at risk. 

‘Hairless cats will be much safer kept indoors in this weather.’

Cat owners can leave out bowls of cold water for your cat in places that you know it likes to go (stock image)

Cat owners can leave out bowls of cold water for your cat in places that you know it likes to go (stock image)

Ensure there are shady spots for cats in their favourite haunts. It is also a good idea to lock enclosed spaces that cats like to explore, like sheds, garages and greenhouses, as their risk of heatstroke is high if they become shut in (stock image)

Ensure there are shady spots for cats in their favourite haunts. It is also a good idea to lock enclosed spaces that cats like to explore, like sheds, garages and greenhouses, as their risk of heatstroke is high if they become shut in (stock image)

How to keep dogs cool

Most dog owners look forward to the daily walks together, but a heatwave is not the time to use their exercise as an excuse to top up a tan.

Over 50 per cent of dogs taken to vets with severe heatstroke do not survive – so the advice from the PDSA is if in doubt, don’t take them out. 

SIGNS OF HEATSTROKE IN DOGS 

  • Excessive panting
  • Heaving flanks 
  • Confusion
  • Bright red gums
  • Foaming at the mouth or dribbling
  • Collapse or seizures

Source: PDSA 

But if you do go for a walk, it is best to go in the early morning or late evening, and avoid going outside when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm.

Dogs can burn their sensitive paw pads on hot tarmac, so it is best to avoid pavements or roads.

Owners can test to see if a surface is too hot for their dog by placing the back of their hand on it for at least seven seconds and seeing if it is painful. 

Shauna Spooner, a vet nurse from PDSA, told MailOnline: ‘If you do venture out, avoid strenuous exercise like running or games of fetch. 

‘Instead, stick to gentle walking and allow your pup plenty of time to sniff, keeping their brain active as well as their legs.

‘Make sure to pack a supply of water to keep your dog hydrated throughout the day. Even if it’s just for a short while and it doesn’t seem that warm to you, it’s really important to take a drink for your pooch in case they get thirsty.

‘Whether you’re embarking on a stroll along a coastal trail, country lane or inner-city street, seek areas of shade and rest more often than you would if you were walking without your pet – imagine how often you’d take a break if you were hiking in a fur coat!’

Just like humans, our pooches are also susceptible to painful sun burns and skin cancer after prolonged sun exposure, which can also cause hair loss.

If a dog has white or particularly light-coloured fur they are even more at risk of sun burn, as more of the harmful UV rays can reach their skin.

Owners are encouraged to rub special pet-friendly sunblock onto exposed areas of their skin, like their nose, ear tips, eyelids and belly. 

Dog owners are encouraged to rub sunblock onto exposed areas of their skin, like their nose, ear tips and belly, to avoid painful sunburn (stock image)

Just like humans, our pooches are susceptible to painful sun burns and skin cancer after prolonged sun exposure, but it can also cause hair loss (stock image)

Just like humans, our pooches are susceptible to painful sun burns and skin cancer after prolonged sun exposure, but it can also cause hair loss. Dog owners are encouraged to rub sunblock onto exposed areas of their skin, like their nose, ear tips and belly (stock images)

Experts at the PDSA also said owners can help keep their dogs cool by providing them with plenty of shade and water.

Paddling pools, cool mats, visits to a river and frozen water and treats are also great ways of allowing dogs to cool themselves down while at home.

It is also good to try and brush your dog regularly to remove loose fur and get their hair cut, as their coat can provide an insulating layer. 

The charity also reminds owners to never leave a pet in a vehicle, caravan, conservatory or outbuildings in warm weather, even with the windows open. 

It is also good to try and brush your dog regularly to remove loose fur and get their hair cut, as their coat can provide an insulating layer (stock image)

It is also good to try and brush your dog regularly to remove loose fur and get their hair cut, as their coat can provide an insulating layer (stock image)

How to keep ‘small furries’ cool

Small furries include rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and chinchillas which often spend the majority of their time in a hutch or cage.

Along with dogs like Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs, many breeds of rabbit are also ‘flat-faced’ and are therefore at higher risk of heatstroke.

This is because there is less surface area available in their noses for heat exchange so cannot lose it as efficiently.

Many rodents also do not pant or sweat, and have very dense fur, so the heatwave is particularly dangerous for them.

If a small furry is kept in an outdoor hutch or run they may find it hard to escape the sunshine if overheating, so it is important to move it into the shade.

It is also recommended to keep checking that the sunlight has not moved onto their home as the day passes, and of course to keep their water bowl or bottle topped up.

If you feel like your small pet is overheating, you can wrap their body in a cool towel from the fridge, keeping their head clear.

Dipping their feet in cool water or feeding them high-water foods like cucumber are also effective ways of reducing their body temperature. 

If you feel like your small pet is overheating, you can wrap their body in a cool towel from the fridge, keeping their head clear. Dipping their feet in cool water or feeding them high-water foods like cucumber are also effective ways of reducing their body temperature (stock image)

If you feel like your small pet is overheating, you can wrap their body in a cool towel from the fridge, keeping their head clear. Dipping their feet in cool water or feeding them high-water foods like cucumber are also effective ways of reducing their body temperature (stock image)

How to keep birds cool

In 2020, there were approximately 995,000 pet birds in the UK, including parrots, budgies and chickens.

As our feathered friends are often enclosed in a cage or an aviary, and do not have sweat glands, it is important they have what they need to stay at a safe temperature.

Ensure their home is kept in a shady spot, and if necessary close the curtains so they are not confined in direct sunlight. 

Warm weather provides the perfect conditions for parasites and bacteria to grow, so it important to keep cages clean and food fresh to avoid infection.

Ms Downing said: ‘Keep indoor captive birds out of direct sunlight, and ensure aviary birds have plenty of shade. 

‘Ensuring good air flow will also help to keep the temperature down. 

‘You can cover a small part of the cage with a thin blanket or sheet to create an area of shade, but make sure to leave enough ventilation.

‘All birds need access to clean fresh water, both for drinking and bathing. 

‘Many birds, such as parrots, often enjoy being gently misted with cool water, to cool off and maintain feather condition.’

Bird baths give budgies or parrots the opportunity to cool themselves down, but also they may enjoy a shower from a mist spray bottle, or the breeze from a low-speed fan (stock image)

Bird baths give budgies or parrots the opportunity to cool themselves down, but also they may enjoy a shower from a mist spray bottle, or the breeze from a low-speed fan (stock image)

What NOT to do to keep your pets cool

It is easy to assume that the ways humans keep themselves cool are also applicable to pets, however some could put them in even bigger danger.

The sugar and dairy content of ice cream is also dangerous to many animals, so vets are urging owners to not give into temptation of giving them a lick.

Ms Downing said: ‘You can make some cooling treats of your own, such as freezing chunks of pet-safe fruits like bananas, mango, watermelon and strawberries. 

‘Apple freezes really well, but remember to remove the core and seeds to avoid any choking hazards.’

Putting a wet towel over your pet may also seem like a good way of lowering their temperature, but this can actually act as an insulator and heat them up further. 

‘Instead, lay down a wet towel or cooling mat for your pooch to lie on, or fill a paddling pool with cold water so they can cool their paws,’ advised Ms Downing.

‘If you think your pet is overheating, calmly wet their coat thoroughly with cool water and call your vet for advice’

Paddling pools, cool mats, visits to a river and frozen water and treats are great ways of allowing dogs to cool themselves down while at home (stock image)

Paddling pools, cool mats, visits to a river and frozen water and treats are great ways of allowing dogs to cool themselves down while at home (stock image)

Signs of heatstroke in animals

The first sign of heatstroke in animals is that they will pant and breathe more heavily.

They may then become tired and sluggish, staggering when they walk or not move at all.

This can then progress into more serious symptoms like vomiting, seizures, diarrhoea and loss of consciousness, which increases their risk of death.

What to do if you think your pet is overheating 

If you think your pet is overheating or is suffering from heatstroke, they must be cooled down immediately.

Move them away from a source of heat by bringing them into the shade and onto a cool surface like a damp towel.

Ms Downing said: ‘If your pet is overheating, the most important thing is to cool them down as soon as possible. 

‘While there are lots of unproven and even dangerous ideas about how to do this, the quickest and surest way to do this is by gently pouring cool water on them to soak their coat, making sure to avoid their face.’

If the pet has lost consciousness, make sure their head is kept clear of the water when bathing them.

Contact your vet as soon as possible for advice, as taking them in or calling out a professional could save their life. 

Dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than humans because they do not sweat like we do. They cool themselves down by panting which isn't very effective

Dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than humans because they do not sweat like we do. They cool themselves down by panting which isn’t very effective

HOW TO KEEP YOUR DOG SAFE IN THE SUN 

Never leave dogs in hot cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans on a warm day (even if only for a short while). When it’s 22°C outside, temperatures can quickly rise to 47°C (117°F) in these environments, which can be fatal.

Use pet-safe sun cream on exposed parts of your pet’s skin, such as the tips of their ears and nose, to avoid sunburn. This is especially important if your dog has white or light-coloured fur, as they can be very vulnerable to getting burnt. If you’re unsure which is the right product to use, please ask your vet.

Ensure pets always have access to shade and fresh drinking water to help keep them cool.

Check every day for flystrike – This is a painful and sometimes fatal condition caused by flies laying their eggs on another animal. These hatch into maggots, which eat the flesh of their ‘hosts’. It is particularly common in hot weather.

Put ice cubes into your dog’s water bowl or make some tasty ice cube treats with treats inside.

Give your pet damp towels to lie on or an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Both simple methods could provide welcome relief from the heat. Never place a damp towel over your dog as this can trap in heat.

Groom them regularly – regular grooming in warmer weather can help brush away any dead or excess hair, leaving your dog with a less dense coat – much better for staying cool!

Provide a paddling pool to splash around in, although not all dogs like water, so there’s no need to force them if they don’t want to!

Source: RSPCA

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