When summer arrives, we crank up the air conditioning to stay cool. This not only helps us humans feel more comfortable – our pets will appreciate the drop in temperature just as much.
According to the New Zealand SPCA, your pet can heat up to such an extent that heat exhaustion kicks in and that can be fatal. The SPCA advises you to keep an eye out for symptoms of overheating including excessive panting, breathing difficulties, weakness, or drooling. To reduce the risk, make sure your pets have access to fresh drinking water and adequate shelter for protection – keep in mind that the sun’s moving shadow will mean you have to relocate this shelter from time to time. There are other tricks to keep your pet cool this summer, and that includes letting them share your air-conditioned space – if they’re allowed inside, of course!
Dogs respond differently to heat than human animals do. For dogs, sweating isn’t nearly as effective in cooling them down as it is for us. They are only capable of sweating small amounts through their paws and rely on panting to cool down. This makes them susceptible to heat stress in warmer weather. In the summer months, take special care with older or overweight pets, those suffering from cardiac conditions, and brachycephalic breeds – these are certain breeds of dogs prone to difficult and obstructive breathing because of the shape of their head, muzzle and throat. Common brachycephalic dog breeds include English and French bulldogs, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston terrier.
You can half-fill a shallow paddling pool for your dog to soak in, but ensure it can get in and out easily. Or, you can invest in a cooling mat from your local pet store. This mat can be used as crate liners or as a bed for your dog to lie on when the weather is uncomfortably warm.
Cats do enjoy warm weather but they still need to stay cool. They will gravitate towards a cool floor to lie on when they’re hot, so ensure there are plenty of shaded areas available in your home. Cats like to sleep a lot during summer but don’t let this alarm you – by napping more on a hot day it stops them from moving around and getting hotter.
Like dogs, cats need to stay hydrated. They prefer to drink water in an area separate from where they eat, so if they’re not drinking from their water bowl, move it away from their food. Stroking your cat with a damp cloth is a great idea if they let you! Concentrate on their paws, bellies and the outside of their ears. Regular brushing helps too, as matted fur acts as insulation which means your cat can overheat more easily.
If you have a small animal as a pet, like a bird, rabbit or guinea pig, move it to a cooler part of your home on a hot day. Wrap ice cubes in a tea towel and put them into their enclosure for them to lean against. Small animals must also stay hydrated, so fruit and vegetables with a high water content e.g. celery and apples, are a good way to help them avoid dehydration. Check with your vet first to ensure the vegetables you feed to your small animal are appropriate for their dietary needs.
As summer approaches and you have your air conditioning serviced so you can stay cool, remember you won’t be the only one feeling your heat. Look out for your pets on hot days – they’ll love you for it!