RSPCA advice on how to care for pets in hot weather including dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs

Soaring temperatures can pose huge risks to animals and with parts of England heading into an expected heatwave, pet owners may be wondering how to best keep their creatures cool and comfortable.

The RSPCA is advising people to pay special attention to their animals, however big or small, in the hot weather to avoid heat exhaustion. Here are some of its top tips.

Take animals for a walk early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the hottest temperatures
Take animals for a walk early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the hottest temperatures

Exercise

Animals like dogs and horses require regular exercise but the RSPCA says this should be avoided when the weather is excessively hot. Experts advise heading out very early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler and when walking dogs, owners are reminded to also check the heat of the pavements before setting off.

If the concrete or tarmac is too hot for you to place your hand on it will be too hot for a dog’s paws, which will not only be uncomfortable for them to walk on but could also cause damage to the soft pads on their feet.

Avoid the temptation to take your dog out with you for the day when it's very hot
Avoid the temptation to take your dog out with you for the day when it’s very hot

Stay at home

If temperatures soar and you’re planning to spend several hours outdoors enjoying the sun, try and avoid the temptation to take your dog with you. Spending prolonged periods of time in the sunshine without shade poses a risk to pets. If you’re not going for longer than four hours, then leave them at home, advises the RSPCA.

While many dog ​​owners are aware of the huge dangers of leaving their animals in cars during warm weather, caution over caravans and conservatories is also being expressed too. Animals can quickly overheat if left in any hot environment.

It is also worth noting that owners are legally responsible for a pet’s health and welfare, so if a dog became very ill or sadly died because it was left in a hot car, owners could be charged with an offense under the Animal Welfare Act.

Chilled salad and vegetables can give animals added moisture if they're outside in the warm
Chilled salad and vegetables can give animals added moisture if they’re outside in the warm

Frozen treats

Just as we offer ice creams to the kids, frozen treats can also keep your pets cool. Frozen dog treats or chilled fresh vegetables for animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, can all help lower their body temperatures while adding ice cubes to water bowls is also a quick and easy way of offering them an ice cold drink. Even a frozen ice lolly made from dog-friendly ingredients would go down well during these scorching temperatures!

You can also wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel and place near your animal to cool their surroundings and the air around them or use damp and chilled towels for your pet to lie on if you don’t own an actual cooling mat designed for animals.

Guinea pigs may need moving around the garden as the sun moves to ensure they remain in the shade
Guinea pigs may need moving around the garden as the sun moves to ensure they remain in the shade

Sun cream and shade

Pets can get sunburn too. Pet-safe sun cream is available to buy should your animal be out in the sun and require it but do ensure animals have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times.

For animals that are kept outside at this time of year – like rabbits and guinea pigs – owners must remember that as the sun moves during the day so might any shade you’ve provided and a place that was cool and in shade in the morning could be in the direct sun by the afternoon. Pets, if you’re leaving them outside, may need moving around the garden during the day in their outdoor enclosures to keep them in the cooler spots and out of direct sunlight.

Those who own chickens, which are more prone to wandering, can try hanging vegetable necklaces in more shady spots to encourage the animals to stay out of the sun.

Animals at risk of flystrike should be checked regularly
Animals at risk of flystrike should be checked regularly

Check for flystrike

The RSPCA advises small animals and poultry are regularly for flystrike, which is a painful condition caused by flies laying eggs on another animal, which then hatch into maggots and eat their ‘hosts’ flesh. Pets with dirty rear ends or generally dirty fur are particularly at risk of flystrike, says the charity.

You can find out more about flystrike and how to prevent it here.

Paddling pools and hoses can be helpful in letting dogs cool off
Paddling pools and hoses can be helpful in letting dogs cool off

Watch the water

When the weather is warm and the sun is strong fish tanks indoors should be kept out of direct sunlight. Not only can algae growth increase but the changing water temperatures that heat and cool with the changing sunlight is not a healthy environment for your fish, which can become stressed with constant fluctuations. Water levels in ponds may also need topping up too if the warm dry spell becomes particularly lengthy.

Dog owners could try letting their pooch into a paddling pool to cool off, or using the fine spray of the hose to help cool them down. But, just as with children, never leave your animals unattended around deep water and as previously mentioned – be cautious about encouraging your dog onto garden patios or paths if the concrete has been roasting in the sunlight.

A tortoise cooling down in a bath
A tortoise cooling down in a bath

Pay attention to pesticides

If your animals are now spending more time in the garden during the better weather pay close attention to any pesticides you may have used. Keep bottles and containers out of the reach of animals who may see them as a toy to play with and ensure anything you’re using on your garden is safe for pets and children. The same applies to any tools that you may have been using for gardening or weeding.



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