Life Wellbeing Nine ways to keep your pet safe and cool during a heatwave

Nine ways to keep your pet safe and cool during a heatwave

Dog Cools Head in Bucket of ice
Pets are vulnerable to heat stress just like humans. Photo: Getty
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With the mercury soaring in parts of Australia, pet owners are being warned that high temperatures can prove deadly for their beloved animals if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Dr Anne Quain, a clinical vet and lecturer at the University of Sydney, said pets of all kinds are at risk of heat stress and urged pet owners to keep a close eye on the weather.

Whether you live with dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds or other companion animals, you need to pay attention to the daily forecast – not just this week, but every day,” Dr Quain said.

Last year was one of the world’s three hottest years on record, and the reality of worsening climate change means we’re in for much more hot weather in the future.

“Climate change means that we are experiencing higher temperatures on hot days, and hot days are becoming more frequent,” Dr Quain said.

“That means everyone caring for companion animals needs a hot weather plan, and they’re going to have to enact it several times throughout summer. High temperatures can be deadly for pets.’’

Animals are at risk of heat stress “in part because they cannot control the environments they are in”, Dr Quain explained.

“If you care for animals, you need to ensure that they are in a well-ventilated environment, with access to shade all day,” she said.

Pets may need indoor access on hot days. Photo: Getty

Even animals usually kept outdoors may need indoor access on extremely hot days, Dr Quain said.

“Animals kept in hutches, cages or aviaries are particularly vulnerable and may require temporary indoor housing,” she said.

“Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds of dogs, such as pugs, shih tzus and chihuahuas, are very vulnerable to heat stress as they cannot cool down easily.”

A vet’s tips for taking care of your pet on hot days

When it comes to protecting your pet from hot weather, preparation is key.

These are Dr Quain’s nine tips:

  • Listen to the weather forecast every day
  • Develop a hot weather plan. This may involve moving animals normally housed outside indoors temporarily, having a neighbour or friend check on animals, rescheduling planned activities, leaving on a fan or air-conditioner
  • If you don’t have somewhere cool to keep animals, you may need to board them in an air-conditioned facility during heatwaves
  • Minimise exercise. Keep to short walks in the cooler parts of the day – usually early in the morning or late in the evening. Refrain from exercising animals in the hotter parts of the day
  • Avoid walking dogs on hot surfaces. We wear shoes – they don’t. When the ambient temperature is just 25 degrees, the temperature of the footpath in the full sun can reach 50 degrees
  • Monitor the temperature indoors and, if necessary, use a fan or air-conditioner. Ideally, someone should be home with the animal(s).
    Ensure animals have a cool surface to sit on. Pavers and concrete get very hot
  • Ensure cool, fresh water is available from multiple sources throughout the day. Animals may drink more than usual on a hot day. You can add a few ice cubes to water bowls
  • Never leave animals unattended in cars, even for a few minutes. The temperature inside a car can reach life-threatening levels within minutes and animals cannot let themselves out
  • If you are concerned that your pet is showing signs of heat stress, contact your closest veterinarian immediately.

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