Keeping pets cool in hot weather

Most people and pets enjoy a bit of warm, sunny weather. A few simple measures will ensure our furry friends stay safe and sound when the mercury rises, PDSA Senior Vet Elaine Pendlebury gives us the lowdown.

"Hot weather can cause problems for pets. Their smaller body size makes them particularly susceptible to heatstroke and of cause they can't tell us when they're too hot in their fur coats. So it's up to owners to spot the signs and ensure they remain happy and healthy in the heat."

Top tips to keep your pets cool

  • Never leave pets in cars. Not even for just a few minutes with windows open. You may be delayed and temperatures can soar dangerously high in minutes, causing potentially fatal heatstroke.
  • Don't let pets sit out in strong sun, or leave hutches, runs or cages, including birdcages in direct sunlight. Make sure there is always access to shade.
  • Make sure pets have access to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times and change water regularly throughout the day.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke - excessive panting, extreme salivation, distress and collapse. If this happens, gradually cool your pet's body temperature. You can do this by wrapping them in wet towels (cool, not freezing) that you change frequently, and call your vet for further advice.
  • If you have a long-haired pet, get them trimmed for summer to prevent over-heating.
  • Walk dogs in the morning or evening - before 8am and after 5pm is best. Not only will this prevent them overheating in the daytime sun, but road surfaces, pavements and sand can burn paws when hot. 
  • Rabbits are prone to maggot infestations (known as flystrike) in the summer. Flies are attracted to dirty fur and lay their eggs, which hatch in to maggots. To prevent this life-threatening condition, check a rabbit's bottom at least twice daily for dirtiness and maggots. If you spot any maggots call your vet as soon as you can.. If their bottom is dirty, clean it gently with a damp cloth. 
  • Food can go off very quickly in the heat, so discard any leftovers quickly.
  • If you have a small furry pet, such as a hamster or gerbil, put a nearly full plastic bottle of water into your freezer and, when frozen, wrap it in a towel and place by the side of  the cage, next to the sleeping area, to keep it cool. It's not a good idea to put the bottle in the cage as it can cause leaks and make the pet too cold. Putting two in the freezer means you'll always have one available. 
  • Take extra care if transporting pets in hot weather - keep windows open when the car is moving, but never let a dog put their head out of the car window. Travel during the coolest times of the day and never leave pets in a parked car. 
  • Fishponds and aquaria can get very hot in the summer - check regularly and make sure the pond has a shaded area

With a little care and attention, we can ensure our pets have fun and don't suffer in the sunshine.

Garden safety

We all love to spend time in the garden in the summer months, and our pets are no exception. However, vet charity PDSA is urging owners to help our curious companions stay safe in great outdoors by taking a few simple precautions.

Elaine Pendlebury, PDSA Senior Vet, says: "Some garden products and certain types of common plants are poisonous to cats, dogs and other pets. A little extra vigilance will ensure that any hazards are kept well out of reach of prying paws."
 

Carry out a 'garden audit' to check for dangers

  • Known your onions - certain plants are highly toxic to pets and can even be fatal, so make sure you know the dangers. These include daffodils, lilies, laburnum, cherry laurel, castor oil bush and yew. Onions can also give pets a poorly tummy. It's best to keep these plants out of areas where pets have free access, and check before planting anything new.
  • Chemical control - Many pesticides and herbicides are harmful to pets, including slug pellets, weed killers and bug sprays. Try safer alternatives, such as pet-friendly slug pellets. If you must use chemicals then always read and follow the instructions, and keep pets away from treated areas for the recommended period. Store any chemicals securely and out of reach.
  • Physical attraction - broken bottles and sharp stones are obvious hazards, but seemingly harmless objects left lying around can also cause injuries. Cats are always curious and will tend to investigate anything that smells interesting (such as bins with food remains in). Dogs are liable to swallow anything that catches their attention, including everyday items like clothes pegs, small toys and stones. Check regularly for potential hazards and remove these.
  • Cocoa shell mulches - these contain high levels of theobromine, a chemical that is highly toxic to pets. Just a few mouthfuls of mulch could kill or seriously injure! Avoid these where possible, or keep pets away from areas where these are used.

PDSA is the UK's leading veterinary charity, providing care for the sick and injured pets of eligible people in need, as well as promoting responsible pet ownership.

Why not help a vet help a pet, there are many ways you can help sick and injured pets.