How to keep your pet safe and healthy in the heatwave

Reese Witherspoon and Moonie in 'Legally Blonde', 2001: Rex Features
Reese Witherspoon and Moonie in ‘Legally Blonde’, 2001: Rex Features

Learning how to cope in the heat can be a struggle, with the beaming rays of the sun, the inescapable humidity and the ever-rising temperatures tough to handle for many.

However, if you’re finding this heatwave unbearable, just imagine how your pet may be feeling.

Domestic animals don’t have the luxury of being able to say when they’re feeling overheated or dehydrated, which is why you need to learn how to keep your pet as safe and healthy as possible during these extreme weather conditions.

Whether you’re a dog person through and through or prefer to keep company with a reptile or two, here’s how to look after your pet properly as the heatwave runs its course:

Dogs

Dogs with long fur will likely fare worse than their shorter-haired peers during the summer.

They’re able to cool themselves down by panting and releasing heat through their paws, as animal charity Blue Cross explains.

They do this because they’re unable to sweat through their skin in the same way as human beings.

If they do overheat, then they could be at risk of suffering from a serious heatstroke.

“Signs of heatstroke in dogs include collapse, excessive panting and dribbling,” the charity states.

“If you suspect your pet is suffering from the condition, move them to a cool place, preferably with a draught, wet their coat with cool – not freezing – water, and contact your vet immediately.”

Furthermore, leaving a dog in a car on a hot day can have devastating consequences, as the temperature within the car can soar to extreme levels at a rapid rate.

That’s why it’s advised never to leave a dog in a car in hot conditions.

The RSPCA recommends only walking your dog in the morning or evening at the peak of summer, as doing so will help prevent them from burning their paws on the pavement or suffering from heatstroke.

You must also make sure that your dog always has access to water.

Cats

Different types of cats may be more prone to sunburn than others, as pet agency Very Important Pets outlines.

“Pale-coloured cats are vulnerable to sunburn; particularly on their ears, noses and sparsely haired areas,” the agency states.

“Like in humans, sunburn can sometimes lead to skin cancer.”

While many cat owners may let their feline friends roam at will, the agency recommends keeping your cat indoors during the hottest time of the day, from around 11am until 3pm.

You can even invest in a suncream designed specifically for pets to provide them with adequate protection from the sun’s rays.

Having your cat’s fur trimmed could be a good course of action in order to make them feel more comfortable in the heat.

Furthermore, if you think that your cat may be feeling overheated, you can use a damp towel to cool them down.

Just like with any other animal, cats shouldn’t be left in cars during a heatwave.

Hamsters

If you normally keep your hamster in a glass or plastic crate, you should be aware that the interior may be hotter than the average room temperature.

Keep in mind where you’re placing the crate, as putting it on a window sill where it’s exposed to the sun could put your hamster at risk of overheating.

Hamster blog site Hammysworld also suggests placing the crate on a stone or tiled floor during the day if possible in order to help them remain cool and comfortable.

You could even place a ceramic tile within the cage as a means of lowering the temperature of the interior even more.

Another trick that Hammysworld recommends is placing a frozen bottle of water on the side of the outside of the crate while also regularly refreshing your pet’s water supply.

Fish

You may think that your fish is safe and sound, chilling in a tank of water as the rest of the UK bakes in the overbearing humidity.

However, the temperature of the tank can easily rise if the room temperature is higher than normal.

If you have heaters in your fish tank, it would be wise to turn them off, Tropical Fish Site recommends.

Moreover, it may be worth reducing the normal temperature of the tank if possible.

Another method that you could try to help keep the water cool is to put bags filled with ice at the bottom of the tank.

Birds

While birds living in exotic locations around the world may be used to hotter climates, chances are that domesticated birds won’t have the same thresholds for higher temperatures.

According to Bird Supplies, birds may be very susceptible to sudden changes in their environment, which is why knowing how to keep them cool during a heatwave is important.

“Your average bird has a standard core temperature of around 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius, and are very susceptible to overheating,” the site states.

Some signs to look out for that may indicate that your bird is overheating include if its panting, holding its wings far away from its body or exhibiting anxious behaviour.

Many birds naturally enjoy spending time outdoors. However, if this is the case, you should make sure that the outdoor space that your bird frequents is equipped with shaded areas.

On top of that, the site states that you should make sure to replace the bathing dish of water at the bottom of your bird’s cage at least once a day, while also ensuring that it has a decent supply of clean water to drink.

Reptiles and amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic or cold-blooded, which means that their body temperature relies on external sources, as detailed by the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

With that in mind, if the temperature of your home is higher than normal, then your pet snake or lizard could suffer in the hot conditions.

Pet store Just For Pets advises first checking whether the temperature of your home falls within your animal’s ideal range.

If the temperature exceeds its ideal range, then you can cool them down by providing them with clean water and keeping a small fan close by.

Furthermore, you could utilise a similar technique to the one advised for hamster owners by placing a ceramic tile in its enclosure that it can use to lower its body temperature (that you could cool first in the fridge).

Plus, if you place an iced bottle of water nearby, it could help reduce the temperature of the air, thus providing your pet with a more bearable environment.

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