How to help your pets keep cool and avoid heatstroke in hot weather –


purebred chihuahua and fan
It can be dangerous for your pets to get overheated (Picture: Getty Images)

As the UK finds itself in the midst of a heatwave which will see temperatures predicted to top 34°C in London, pet owners should be wary of overheating pets and heatstroke.

Animal welfare charity Blue Cross has previously warned of the dangers pets can face in hot weather.

Flat-faced breeds, such as British Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Persian cats, have an increased risk of getting heatstroke.

They’re even known to collapse, as their short muzzles can make breathing difficult, and therefore it’s even harder for them to keep cool.

Overweight and senior pets can also struggle in hot weather, so take extra care.

Caroline Reay, Head of Veterinary Services at Blue Cross, said: ‘Just recently we treated a two-year-old French bulldog who had been taken out on a run who had collapsed.

‘While we enjoy the sunshine and warm weather, it is important to make sure our pets are kept safe. They can quickly overheat and sometimes this can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

Dog Cools Head in Bucket of ice
If the ground is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for paws (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘The heatwave will certainly prove too hot for most of our pets, so please do walk dogs early in the morning and late at night when temperatures are lower.

‘Never leave your pet alone inside a car, even with windows open it can quickly become like an oven and dogs become overcome with the heat.’

Blue Cross also want to highlight that hot tarmac can burn your little buddy’s paws just like it might a human, so be careful where you walk them.

If you want to test if the ground is too hot, simply take your shoes off and see if you can stand for five seconds – if you can’t, it’s too hot for your dog.

Tabby cat basking in the sun stretching out on a street
Cats aren’t immune to heat either (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s tempting to open all your windows in hot weather, but Blue Cross recommends installing screens and netting to help keep your pets from suffering a nasty fall.

The charity often also gets asked about giving dogs ice cubes in hot weather.

Caroline explains you need to take the size of your pet into consideration, saying: ‘It’s fine to give your dog ice cubes in the hot weather, but make sure the size of the cube is appropriate to the size of the dog.

‘For smaller breeds only offer small cubes or ice shavings.’

More tips from Blue Cross on how to keep pets cool in summer

  • Walk your dog in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler, and avoid strenuous games that will get their body temperature up.
  • Make sure your pet has access to plenty of clean water at all times. Pay particularly attention to older animals, particularly cats, because they’re even more vulnerable to dehydration.
  • If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paws. If your dog needs a long walk to burn energy, but it’s too hot, find other ways to stimulate them.
  • Light-coloured cats and dogs can get sunburnt, which can be painful and lead to skin cancer, so keep sunbathing pets indoors when the sun is strongest. You can also apply a non-toxic human sunscreen or one specifically for pets to vulnerable areas like their ears and noses.
  • Pets with thick fur will need regular grooming and even a summer trim to help keep them cooler – a professional groomer can help with that.
  • If you’ve got smaller pets like guinea pigs and rabbits, make sure their hutches and runs are in shady areas and make sure they are clean at all times with plenty of water topped up throughout the day.
  • Make ice cubes with your pet’s favourite treat – peanut butter anyone? – inside.
  • Fill a paddling pool with cool water in the garden for dogs to play in.
  • If you suspect your animal is suffering from heatstroke, remove them to a cool place, dampen their coat with tepid water on a towel and contact a vet immediately. Be careful not to over-cool them, especially if they’re smaller pets.

Watch out for the symptoms of heatstroke in your pets, which, as This Morning’s Dr Scott Miller previously warned, include ‘excessive amounts of panting’ and drooling.

He explained that heatstroke could also cause pets to lose their coordination, while, in the ‘worst case scenario’, they could collapse.

For dogs specifically, heatstroke presents with symptoms including:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Collapsing
  • Vomiting

The symptoms of heatstroke in cats are:

  • Agitation
  • Stretching out and breathing rapidly
  • Extreme distress
  • Having skin hot to the touch
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting and drooling

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