Vet shares how to keep dogs and cats safe in a heatwave

Dog sleep in a hammock in a summer garden

Make sure your pet has access to shade whenever you're out in the garden, park, countryside or beach - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anna Threlfall, head of internal medicine at Davies Veterinary Specialists near Hitchin, shares her 10 top tips to ease you and your pet safely through the summer heat

Hot pets are not happy pets and in summer heatwaves it can be a challenge to know how best to keep dogs and cats cool, comfortable and content. The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to help your precious pet avoid the risks of heatstroke. 

What is heatstroke?
As the body temperature rises, inflammatory mediators are released causing inflammation throughout the body. This affects all the major organs and can result in a variety of clinical signs such as a rapid heart beat, kidney failure, oedema (swelling) of the brain and failure of the blood clotting system. Once the body temperature rises above 41.5°C damage starts to occur and the higher the temperature, the greater the risk of irreparable organ damage. 
Signs of heatstroke include prolonged heavy breathing, distress, bright pink to red lips and gums, weakness and lethargy. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, it’s very important to call your vet as soon as possible.  

Young man with dog at sunset in summer nature. Thirsty yellow labrador retriever drinking water

Take evening and morning walks when it's cooler and always have fresh water to hand - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


How can I best protect my pet from the heat? 
1.
Create shade when outside in gardens, parks or at the beach by using items such as umbrellas, chairs, tents or windbreaks. 
2. Provide a fresh supply of water wherever you are.  
3. Drop ice cubes in pet bowls to keep water refreshingly cool.  
4. Leave windows or doors ajar (when safe) to create a cooling breeze through the house.  
5. Never leave pets in cars, conservatories or caravans as heat can rapidly rise to dangerous levels. 
6. Place a fan in your pet’s favourite room, allowing them to seek relief when needed.
7. Check sheds, garages and outhouses for pets before locking them – cats especially love sneaking in to escape the heat.  
8. Help long-haired animals by treating them to a haircut to remove some unnecessary insulation. 
9. Exercise dogs in the early morning or late evening to avoid peak temperatures and burnt paws.
10. Pale dogs and cats can get sunburned, and there is an increased risk of skin cancer in such animals, so apply animal or child-safe sun cream to the nose and ears when in the sun.  

For more tips and advice, visit the pet owner page on the Davies website vetspecialists.co.uk. You’ll also find information on animal first aid plus fact sheets on many common conditions.