Protect your pet from the sun

As we head into the summer months and temperatures start rising, it’s important to remember that your pets are most vulnerable at this time to many injuries and illnesses brought on by hot weather including sunburn, foot pad burns, dehydration, and the most dangerous of all, heatstroke. While heat stress is more common during the summer months, it can occur at any time throughout the year.

A state of hyperthermia, heatstroke occurs when a pet’s core body temperature exceeds the normal range, caused when heat generation exceeds the pet’s ability to cool itself down and lose the heat.

All pets are susceptible to heatstroke, but some are more prone than others including;

Dogs and Cats – pets which are overweight, have a thick heavy coat or are of a flat-faced breed (which is prone to breathing difficulties) are all more prone to heatstroke.

Rabbits and Guinea pigs – Rabbits and guinea pigs of any age are susceptible to heatstroke because they have very few ways of getting rid of excess heat. As prey species, they are experts at hiding any evidence of distress. Long hair, pregnancy and being overweight are some of the factors which make them more prone to heatstroke.

To help protect your pets during warm weather spells, and minimise the risk of any sun-related injuries, here are a few simple things you can do at home:

Water

Ensure your pet always has access to fresh water. Like humans, our pets are at danger of dehydration if they don’t drink enough water. Do not wait for your pet to appear thirsty or beg for water; ensure that it is readily available in a shady area, out of direct sunlight. You should also ensure their bowls are clean so that it stays nice and fresh, and they want to drink from it.

Exercise

Beat the heat and exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day. You should try and get out early morning or late evening and keep extra strenuous exercises to a minimum throughout periods of hot weather. When taking your dog for a walk you should ensure you have a fresh supply of water with you. If your dog isn’t used to going for long walks, is overweight or suffers from breathing difficulties, it is advisable to avoid exercising them when it’s particularly hot.

Time out

It’s important that your pet has access to a cool area in the house or hutch out of direct sunlight to go and relax.  Also ensure the area has an ample amount of airflow and remains well ventilated throughout the day.

If your rabbit or guinea pig are kept in a hutch then you should move this into a shaded area, or inside of the house, depending on where it is located.

Sun Cream

Just like us, our dogs and cats can get burned when they endure prolonged sun exposure, and as a result, can suffer from red, inflamed skin which is painful and irritating; resulting in scaly skin and hair loss. Use a pet-safe sun cream recommended by your vet – especially on pets with thin or white fur –  focusing primarily on their nose and ears to protect them from harmful UV rays.

Cars, Caravans and Conservatories

Never leave a pet in a car, caravan or a conservatory as temperatures, even on a cloudy day, can rise dramatically within a very short space of time. This could quickly lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal. If you have to travel with your dog in a car, you should ensure there is fresh air circulating through the vehicle, either from an open window or air conditioning. If you see a dog in a car looking distressed you should call 999 immediately, as recommended by the SSPCA and other animal welfare organisations.

Keeping your pet cool

If you’re seeking some further ideas for ways to keep your dog or cat cool, and entertained at the same time, you could:

  • make some frozen treat cubes,
  • let them play with a cold/damp towel,
  • provide a cooling mat,
  • place fans around the house,
  • provide a paddling pool,
  • put some toys in the freezer to cool them down.

Do not use ice, or ice-cold water as this can cause shock.

If you have a rabbit or guinea pig, you could:

  • freeze a water bottle and wrap it in a towel. They can then snuggle up to the bottle to cool down.
  • choose to give them some fresh vegetables. Before putting them in their hutch, wash them and leave a little water on them to add to their water intake.
  • regularly pour cool water on them so the heat is lost by evaporation.

It is important to note that you should not use ice-cold water or ice as this could shock their body and worsen the problem.

Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms you should look out for with heatstroke in dogs:

  • Distressed breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Heavy Panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargic and weak
  • Collapsed or stumbling
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors

Although being very similar to a dog’s symptoms, a cat’s symptoms can be a lot more subtle and include:

  • Distressed breathing
  • Heavy Panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Appears drowsy – may pace
  • Collapsed or stumbling
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors

Some of the symptoms you should watch out for in a rabbit or guinea pig include:

  • Red ears (rabbits)
  • Bright red tongue
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Lethargic
  • Muscle tremors
  • Appears drowsy

If your pet is presenting symptoms or you are concerned about your pet and heatstroke, you should contact us immediately.