With the dial set at Scorchio this weekend, here are the Animals in Distress top tips to helping our doggos and other pets stay cool and prevent heatstroke.
- Never walk them in the heat of the day. First thing in the morning and last thing in the evening when it is cooler are the best times to walk dogs.
- Remember the 5 Second Rule – if you can’t hold the back of your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds because it’s too hot, then it can cause serious burns to your dog’s feet.
- Never leave dogs in cars or caravans on hot days – even for a few minutes with the windows open it can be fatal.
- Offer them paddling pools to keep them cool and entertained.
- Frozen treats (such as Kongs or lick mats stuffed with food and then frozen) are good to keep them occupied and help them cool off at the same time.
- Offer them games which don’t involve running around, such as finding hidden treats.
- Make sure they have constant access to shady places to lie and cool off – in the heat of the day it may be even better for them to stay indoors in a cool room.
- Ice pods and cool mats provide great places for dogs to literally, chill. Cats like to sit on them too!
- Offer your dog lots of hydration with multiple water sources.
- Flat-faced, older and unwell dogs are at the greatest risk of heatstroke, so great care should be taken not to over-exert them during hot weather.
- If your dog shows any signs of heatstroke (rapid panting, bright red or very pale tongue, weakness, diahorrhea, vomiting, dizziness, mental confusion, seizures, collapse) move them to a cool, shaded area, apply cool wet towels (change them as they become warm) and get your dog to a vet immediately – heatstroke is an emergency and can be fatal.
Pet rodents (such as rats, chinchillas, and guinea pigs) and rabbits don’t tolerate high temperatures well – most are native to cooler climates and not designed for the kind of temperatures we are now seeing, so it’s more important than ever to make sure they stay cool during a heatwave.
- Shade: If your rabbits or guinea pigs live outside, make sure their accommodation and their run has shade cover, or bring them to a cool room indoors. Never leave them in a run in direct sunlight.
- Ice pods: Ice pods are great for your small animals to lie on to keep cool. Scratch & Newton make good ones. Alternatively, you can fill up plastic water bottles and freeze them – just make sure to wrap them in a towel or cloth so the animals aren’t in direct contact with them.
- Ceramic tiles:, Frozen or chilled in the fridge first, ceramic tiles can be added to your small animals’ enclosure for them to lie on.
- Underground burrowing: In the wild burrowing animals like rabbits and rats would often spend the hottest part of the day underground where it’s cooler. You can recreate this opportunity by sinking wide pipes in your garden to create underground tunnels for your rabbits. If you have pet rats, a dig box filled with coco-soil put into their enclosure offers them enrichment and helps them keep cool – the soil in the dig box has to be kept damp for this to work.
- Fans: Fans just move the air around and do little to lower the temperature. But by placing a bottle of frozen water in front of a fan you can provide a cool breeze. Make sure any wires are protected from being chewed, and don’t point the fan directly at the animals.
- Lots of hydration: Offer your pets multiple clean water sources at all times – using both bowls and bottles is best as it offers them more choice.
- Flystrike: Flies love hot weather and it’s more important than ever to check your bunnies’ bums regularly (several times a day) to make sure they are clean and prevent flystrike. It’s also more important than ever during hot weather to keep their living accommodation scrupulously clean. If you suspect your rabbit has flystrike, it is an emergency – make sure they get to a vet straight away.
- Frozen vegetables – rats and mice only: Rats and mice can be given frozen vegetable “ice pops” to eat, to help them cool off during hot weather.
- Pea fishing (for rats): a shallow dish of cold water containing frozen peas is a great way for rats to keep cool, as they wade in and fish out the peas. Make sure the rats can voluntarily get out of the water, as being forced to swim is very stressful.
DON’T give frozen veg to rabbits, guinea pigs or other rodents as it could cause Gastrointestinal Stasis, a potentially fatal condition.
- If your small animal shows signs of heatstroke (rapid breathing/panting, lethargy, refusing food, ears/feet abnormally hot to the touch, appearing wobbly and unbalanced or collapsing then bring them to a cooler place immediately. Do not rapidly cool them by using ice or dunking them in cold water, as the shock could kill them. You can apply cool tap water to their ears and feet only, or place them on a cool damp towel. Offer them water but don’t force them to drink. If they don’t recover quickly after being moved to a cooler place they will need to go to the vets immediately, place a damp towel over the carrier to help keep them cool on the journey.
For more information on rabbit care see www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk