A third of people do not know what to do if their dog has heatstroke, research has found, and the RSPCA says could be “a matter of life or death” if owners do not take extreme caution with their pets this weekend.
The pet charity has appealed to owners to take every possible precaution to keep their animals safe during the intense heat, including familiarising themselves with the signs of heatstroke in animals and swotting up on how to make frozen treats.
Esme Wheeler, a dog welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “The hot weather has gone from glorious to extreme, and we can’t stress enough how vital it is that pet owners take the situation seriously. We’re urging anyone with a pet – whether it’s a dog or cat, a rabbit or guinea pig, and even chickens, horses and exotic animals – to put aside some time today to read up and make plans.”
The signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, unusual breathing noise, lethargy or change in behaviour, stumbling, and a blue/grey tinge to the gums or tongue. Owners should contact their vet immediately if they spot any of these signs.
Move the dog into the shade or a cool space and offer water, although only in small amounts. Lie them in cool but not very cold water and/or pour water over them. A soaked, cool towel could be placed over the dog’s side, and replaced if it becomes warm.
To avoid getting to that stage, skip walks and travel, keep dogs indoors out of the heat and leave water available at all times. Owners could also consider making frozen treats to encourage their pets to keep hydrated.
If you must exercise your dog, aim to keep to gentle, slow walks on the lead, and do this in the very early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler. If in doubt, don’t go out.
Cats, small furries, fish and pet chickens
The RSPCA has prepared a video on how to keep cats cool in hot weather, with tips such as laying down a cool damp towel in case your cat chooses to lie on it, and using pet-safe suncream on ears and other exposed areas if necessary.
Small animals, poultry and other pets should be checked twice a day for flystrike (when flies lay their eggs on another animal, which then hatch into maggots). Guinea pigs can be kept cool and hydrated by making them a fresh vegetable treat.
“Ensure rabbits and guinea pigs have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times, and remember that as the sun moves during the day so too does the shade,” said Wheeler. “Somewhere that was shaded in the morning could be in full sun by the afternoon.”
Owners could also freeze a semi-full plastic bottle of water and wrap it in a towel so their pets can lie against it. People with pet chickens can encourage them to stay in shaded areas by hanging up a homemade vegetable garland. Fish tanks should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Horses and farm animals
Owners need to know the signs of dehydration in horses so they can contact a vet if needed.
Farm animals need their water troughs checked regularly to make sure they are working properly and any algae or debris has been removed.
With exercise and travel planned for either end of the day when temperatures are lower, horses stabled during the day might appreciate a “boredom buster” treat.
A non-toxic fly repellent spray and a fly mask can help keep horses protected from bugs, and pet-safe sunscreen can be used on horses’ muzzles if necessary.
Make sure pigs have plenty of wet mud to wallow in, as well as shade.
Leave a bowl of fresh drinking water in your garden for birds and other wildlife. Top up water levels of ponds, and keep an eye out for wildlife when using lawnmowers or strimmers.
July 15, 2022 at 04:21PM Amelia Hill