How to keep your pet safe and healthy during a heatwave

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.

With the Met Office forecasting high temperatures across the UK this week , with many parts of the country seeing temperatures above average, 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.

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Whether you’re a dog person or own a reptile, this is how to look after your pet properly as the heatwave runs its course.

Dogs

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

However, they are able to cool themselves down by panting and releasing heat through their paws, as animal charity Blue Cross explains.

Dogs do this because they’re unable to sweat through their skin in the same way as humans do.

If a dog does overheat, they could be at risk of suffering from a serious heatstroke, with the charity explaining that “signs of heatstroke in dogs include collapse, excessive panting and dribbling”.

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“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,” the charity advises.

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, which is why it’s advised never to leave a dog in a car in hot conditions.

To ensure that dogs are comfortable during walks on days with excessive heat, 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.

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

Cats

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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, adding that, “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.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Scientists believe that the world’s first known dog lived 31,700 years ago. This prehistoric dog resembled a large Siberian Husky.

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 also 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

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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.

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This is important to keep in mind when considering where their crate is placed, 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 the animals 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 the outlet recommends is to place a frozen bottle of water on the side of the outside of the crate while also regularly refreshing your pet’s water supply.

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Fish

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You may think that your fish is safe in their tank of water as those outside battle the intense heat and 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, while it may also be worth reducing the normal temperature of the tank if possible.

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

Birds

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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.

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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 105F or 40C, 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.

Keep an Eye On Your Dog Around Water (Especially Pools). Not all dogs are great swimmers, and when it comes to pools they can be very dangerous for a dog. Keep an eye on your dog if they’re out in the yard by the pool and make sure your dog knows where the steps in & out of the pool are.

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

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

Socialize your pet. Meeting new people and other pets improves the confidence of your pet. Plus, having extra playmates will help relieve some of your pet’s built-up energy.

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.

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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.

Most animals are creatures of habit. It will be important to develop a consistent schedule to follow with your new pet. Potty breaks at regular intervals, feeding at the same time(s) every day, playtime, walks – everything needs to be scheduled. At first, this can seem overwhelming but soon enough, you and your new pet will be on the same schedule.