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6 ways to keep your pet cool this summer

by Sophie Finney

Summer is upon us and to ensure you and your furry and feathery friends get the most fun out of the sun, Open Colleges’ Vet Nursing studentSophie Finney has named her top 6 tips for keeping your pets cool when the temperatures soar. 

With long days and plenty of sun giving us a good reason to head outdoors, summer can be a great time of year to spend with our pets.

During the warmer months, however, it is very important to remember our pet’s comfort, as heat related stress can cause some big complications.

Below are 6 ways to help keep your pet cool, happy and healthy this summer.

Adjust your outdoor activities with pets

While it can seem like a good idea to invite your dog along for a day at the beach, try to limit the time you spend out in the hot sun with them.

Humans are very capable of spending several hours sun-baking to achieve the perfect tan whilst staying relatively cool, but your pet’s cooling mechanisms can’t handle long periods in the heat and you may find them overwhelmed and unable to cool themselves.

With this in mind, if you must take them out, make sure they have access to shade and water and ensure that they don’t over-exercise in hot weather. Your dog won’t necessarily know when they’ve had enough, so you need to keep them in check and look for signs of overdoing it, including hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry gums that become pale, increased drooling, erratic or rapid pulse, confusion, weakness and more.

Encouraging your dog to swim or play in water as an alternative to going for a run can also help them keep cool.

Hydration, hydration, hydration!

It sounds like a no-brainer, but access to fresh, cool water is so important to your pet’s health.

As the days heat up, this may mean that outside water sources need to be checked and refreshed more than once a day.

Water should always be clean and more than one water source needs to be available (in case one gets spilled, becomes dirty or runs dry).

On really hot days, a little bit of ice added to the water can help to keep it cool and will give your pet something fun to play with.

When heading out with your pet, a portable water carrier or dog bowl ensures that you will always have water available for your pet.

Water can also be sprayed to on your pet’s paws and face to help cool them down – most pets control their body temperature through their paws and mouth so this is the most effective way to help them bring their temperature down.

Add a little ice

As mentioned above, clever uses of ice can be a great way to cool your pet down.

One good idea for using ice is to make ice blocks out of water with some stock and kibble or treats (which can include appropriate fresh veggies for dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs). These pet pops are great for backyard play, or melted into their water bowl.

For small pets like ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs, fill an old milk or juice bottle up with water, freeze overnight then place it into their enclosure during the day. You’ll often find them lounging up next to it to help cool themselves down.

Ice in a large bowl of water sitting in front of a fan is also good alternative to cool a room if you don’t have air conditioning.

Head indoors

Even with adequate shade, would you want to spend every daylight hour outside during the summer? The coolest place for pets is usually indoors, and they should be allowed access to at least part of the house during the day.

Even without air conditioning, most modern houses have great insulation which keeps them cooler than the outside temperature, and tiled spaces can be a really refreshing place for your pet to spread out and take a nap.

Pocket pets such as ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs are often kept outdoors year round, however they are actually very intolerant to heat; these guys especially should be brought indoors during the day as temperatures over 22°C, which can be harmful to them.

Some pets, like those with pink skin (especially on the nose and ears) are susceptible to sun burn (and the associated risk of skin cancer) and should be kept indoors during the day.

Sun up, sun down

It’s no secret that early morning and late evening are the coolest parts of a summer day – which makes them an ideal time to walk the dog or let your cat or pocket pet out for some fresh air.

One of the biggest advantages to early morning walks is that the road and footpath surfaces have not absorbed the heat of the day, making them cool and safe for your pet’s sensitive paw pads (you should always test road surfaces before walking your pets by pressing your hand flat on the ground – if you can comfortably hold it there for five seconds, it is okay to walk).

These cooler periods of the day also present lower levels of ultraviolet (UV) light which is very important for pets who have a higher risk of sunburn and adverse effects from UV radiation.

Know what is normal for your pet

Knowing your pet’s normal patterns is crucial to preventing, or identifying, a medical emergency.

If your pet is normally boisterous and doesn’t know when to stop sprinting around on a 30°C day, you may need to calm them down and encourage them to take a break – or if you have a pet who is generally much more sedate, you can probably trust that they won’t overdo it while walking in the park on a hot day.

If your pet is normally ahead of you out on a walk but is instead trying to flop down in every shady patch he sees, he might be telling you he’s too hot to go on.

Pets who are very old, very young, unfit, have a heart condition, a snub nose (like pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats) or those who are overweight have a higher risk of heat stroke and must have extra consideration when exercising or going out over the summer.

Knowing the signs of heat stroke – excessive panting, drooling, increased thirst, collapse, lethargy, high temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea and in extreme cases, seizure – will help you identify if this is occurring to your pet so that you can seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Always have your vet’s phone number handy and call them if you have any concerns about your pet’s wellbeing.

Whether you like to spend your summers out on the sand, relaxing in the park or playing in your own backyard, there is always an easy way to keep your furry or feathered companion cool.

Ensuring that they stay comfortable and safe means that they can spend many more summers with you, and they will love the extra effort and attention you put into helping them beat the heat!

Do you love animals?

Why not turn your interest into a career? A Certificate IV in Vet Nursing from Open Colleges will equip you with all the skills and knowledge to work with animals in a number of settings, including a veterinary clinic. Study online, in your own time and get the qualification you need to launch your exciting new career! Learn more here.

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