Now that summer is here and the temperatures are climbing in many parts of the country, it’s important to protect your dog from the heat, as exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion and life threatening heatstroke.
Like in humans, heatstroke occurs when an animal’s body temperature becomes elevated above the normal range due to exposure to excessively high temperatures, to the point where their body’s temperature-regulating mechanism fails and they can’t maintain a healthy temperature. It’s a very serious condition that can cause organ failure or death. Some animals are at higher risk of overheating and severe consequences such as heatstroke, including dogs with other medical conditions (like heart problems or breathing problems), those with a thick or long coat, very young or very old dogs, and short-nosed or flat-faced breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs and British bulldogs.
Read on for some ways to keep your dog cool this summer and help protect them from the heat
Avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day
On hot days, try to walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler. Avoid walking on hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
One way to check if the ground is too hot is to place the back of your hand on the surface for five seconds and if it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your dog!
Never leave your dog alone in a car or vehicle
Don’t ever leave your dog in a car or vehicle. Temperatures in a car can reach more than double the outside temperature even on mild days, and even if you park in the shade or leave the windows open. It can take just six minutes for an animal to die in a hot car. Dogs can also overheat when left on the back of a ute, including by burning their feet or other body parts on the ute tray.
Provide plenty of water
Make sure dogs have plenty of fresh water, kept in a cool place. Always put an extra bowl or two out in case one gets knocked over. You could also pop in some ice cubes to keep the water nice and cold.
Keep your pet indoors
On hot, humid days, you should bring your dog inside if the indoor environment is cooler (for example, if you have air conditioning). If they are outside, it’s important to provide your dog with a cool, shaded area with good ventilation. Good ventilation is particularly important as dogs cool down by panting which requires good air flow.
It's not just dogs that are affected by the heat – cats and small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, rats and mice are highly susceptible to heatstroke. If these animals are confined to a cage, this means they can’t move into cooler places, placing them at even higher risk. Make sure they have a cool, shade and well-ventilated area with access to clean, fresh drinking water. On very hot days, this might mean moving them inside. By following these tips, you can have peace of mind that your pet is safe and staying cool in these warmer months.
For more information, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.
This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers