While most of us look forward to warmer weather, many animals can suffer in high temperatures and humid conditions. Even relatively lower temperatures at the start and end of a summer day can prove uncomfortable for our pets, especially if they are kept in direct sunlight without any shade.
Unfortunately, each year vets across the country report seeing large numbers of cases involving pets who require treatment for heat related conditions. Last year this figure was even higher than usual, not surprising given the record-breaking temperatures that the UK experienced. In a survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) last autumn, almost two-thirds of vets reported seeing heat-related cases like heatstroke, breathing problems and skin conditions over the summer of 2018, with dogs being most susceptible.
TIPS TO KEEP PETS HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Some common measures should be followed for all pets, whether dogs, cats, rabbits or birds. These include making sure they are shaded from the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day, and that their living space is well ventilated. They should also have access to fresh water to drink throughout the day.
Dogs may particularly struggle to stay cool in these high temperatures and humid conditions since, unlike humans, they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, rendering them vulnerable to overheating. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as English or French bulldogs and pugs are even more at risk, as their short noses can make breathing properly difficult, and therefore cooling down much harder. Avoid exercising dogs in the heat of the day: especially older dogs, flat-faced breeds or dogs that you know have heart or lung problems.
Vets know that dogs won’t stop enjoying themselves and exercising because it is hot, so it’s up to owners to do all they can to prevent overheating happening – and be able to recognise the signs and act quickly if it does. Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, restlessness and lack of coordination.
Similarly, rabbits cannot sweat or pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down, and temperatures over 27°C can cause heat stroke, which is often fatal for them. That’s why it’s important that their hutch or run isn’t exposed to direct sunlight at any time of the day. You can freeze plastic bottles of water and place them in your rabbit’s enclosure to help them stay cool. Lightly misting rabbits’ ears with cold water is also an effective way to help cool them.
Flystrike is also a life-threatening risk in the warmer months, so it is important that atleast once a day, you check that your rabbits have clean bottoms and their living space is kept clean to prevent possible maggot infestation. If you see any maggots on your rabbits this must be treated as an emergency and you should call a vet immediately.
Some breeds of cats and dogs, particularly those with lighter-coloured or finer fur, may benefit from appropriate sun cream in hot weather, especially on the ears, which are prone to sunburn. Consult with your local vet to ensure you are providing the right protection in the right place.
Likewise, take care to ensure birds in cages or aviaries are not exposed to direct sunlight and have adequate shade.
DEALING WITH TICKS AND FLEAS
Fleas can be a chronic source of irritation for pets and are more prevalent in the warmer weather. One flea will lay hundreds of eggs in its short lifetime that then develop into larvae, which can penetrate into carpets, beds and soft furnishings.
Most dogs and cats will come in contact with fleas through other pets or wild animals, so
regular preventive treatment is important. There is a wide range of flea treatment products available, but you should speak to your vet for advice on which will be the most suitable for your pet. Your vet will take into account your individual circumstances and consider factors such as the number and range of animals in your home, your pet’s temperament and their potential exposure to other pests, such as ticks. Remember, never use a dog flea treatment on cats. Dog treatments contain permethrin, which can cause serious health problems or even death in cats.
When it comes to ticks, prevention is again better than cure. Discuss year-round parasite control, including tick prevention treatments, with your local vet. Also check pets for ticks after walks. If you find any ticks on them, remove them completely using a commercially available tick-remover or finepointed tweezers, even if they are dead.
Finally, if you have any questions about helping your pet stay healthy and happy during the summer, contact your local vet for tailored advice.