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 which are 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. Heatstroke occurs 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-haired breeds, pregnancy and being overweight are some of the factors which make certain individuals 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 susceptible to 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, and 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, please 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 their hutch 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 irritated; 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, focussing 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. Temperatures, even on a cloudy day can rocket, even If you think it’s ‘just a few minutes’ heatstroke can happen quickly and can be fatal, and a minute may be just too long, as temperatures in such environments can rise dramatically within a very short space of time. 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, which looks distressed, you could call 999 immediately, as recommended by the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations. 

Keeping your pet cool 

If you’re seeking some further ideas for ways to keep your cat or dog 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, or 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. You may also 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. If your pet gets too hot, you should wrap them in a damp towel, and continue to change it regularly and monitor their symptoms. 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.

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 include:

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

To identify if your guinea pig has heatstroke you should watch out for the following:

  • 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 the practice immediately.