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How to keep your pets cool during the summer months

Handy hints for pet owners to keep their pets healthy and happy

It's no secret that summer in Australia can be brutal at times. We have days when the temperature soars over 30 degrees, climbing steadily in certain areas to reach 40!

Most of us can handle a couple of hot days. We sit in air conditioning, take a dip in the pool, or stay indoors locked away from the sun. So, let me ask you – is your pet lucky enough to have the same treatment?

Did you know that animals feel the heat much more than us?

If we're not vigilant as pet owners and take precautions, our pets can suffer heatstroke on hot days. Even worse, heatstroke can lead to organ failure and death.

None of us wants that for our beloved companions!

How you can spot the signs of heatstroke

The most common symptom of heatstroke in a dog is panting, and although rare for cats, you may also notice them panting or breathing rapidly.

You may also notice drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, disorientation, seizures or collapse.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it's essential to get to the vets asap. On the way, try and lower your pet's body temperature gradually with a wet towel or water and fan them, and drive with your air conditioner on.

NOTE: Never put your pet in an ice-cold bath as rapid cooling can worsen heatstroke or cause hypothermia, both of which can be fatal.

If you have to go out, here's what to do for your pet

  • Leave plenty of cool water (with ice blocks) in a few bowls in case they knock one over or finish it

  • Try to keep them inside in air conditioning (with blinds closed), or if outside, try to keep them in a cool, shady part of your yard

  • Avoid taking your pet in a hot car, and never leave them in a car (heatstroke and brain damage in a hot car can happen in only 4 minutes!)

  • Place wet towels in a freezer for a few hours, then leave them in your pet's bed for the day

  • Keep long-haired pets clipped during the summer months

  • If your pet is outside, put sunscreen or zinc on exposed areas of pink skin (ears and noses)

Tips on keeping your dog cool during summer

Here are some extra tips for dog owners. Be mindful that certain breeds are more susceptible to heatstroke. The dogs are usually the short-nosed, flat-faced dogs such as pugs, and English and French bulldogs.

  • If you go out for a walk (don't run!), make it early in the morning, so your dog's paws won't burn on the asphalt, and they won't overheat, and take a bottle of water

  • Try to keep them inside in air conditioning or when they're outside, make sure they have plenty of shady areas

  • Fill up a kid clam pool (or similar), so your dog can lie in it or drink from it when they're outside

  • Don't put doggy outfits on them, even if it's a special occasion

  • Try and avoid car rides and never ever leave them inside a parked car, even if you've parked in the shade

  • Keep their hair shorter

  • And finally, know the signs to look out for and act quickly if you need too

Tips on keeping your cat cool during summer

Here are some extra tips for cat owners. Did you know that cats only sweat through their paw pads?

As you can imagine, this doesn't let them cool down too much. To help them stay cool:

  • Make sure you keep your cat indoors during the hottest part of the day (lock the cat flap and tell people not to let the cat out)

  • If you're not home to replace water bowls, leave one in the sink with a slow drip. This will make sure they have a constant supply of fresh, cool water, and can splash in it to help cool down

  • Save playtime for early morning or later in the evening

  • Leave your cat to sleep where they're comfortable. You'll find they'll probably stretch out on cool tiles

  • You can buy cat cooling mats if your cat is older and more susceptible to heatstroke

Follow these tips and use common sense for all your pets in summer

If you've got other pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and so on, the same type of common sense applies.

  • Make sure they've got access to water

  • Keep them in a cool place (don't leave rabbits in steel hatches outside in the full sun)

  • If you've got an outside aviary, consider installing a 'fogger' to mist the cage, or put a small sprinkler just outside the cage

  • Drop wet hessian bags over the sides of the cages (but make sure they can't get their claws tangled in thread)

  • Keep fish tanks away from windows

Have you got any other tips to save your pets from heatstroke?

If you do, I'd love for you to share your ideas with our community by dropping your hint in the comments below.

Or, if you know any pet owners who'd benefit from reading about how to protect their pet during summer, please feel free to share this information with them.

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