Heatwaves and Animals
Animals are vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves.
Many animals cannot shed their coats when they become hot and their various cooling mechanisms are very different, and somewhat limited, compared with those of people.
What you can do to prevent heat-related illness in your animals
- On very hot days, it is best to walk your pets in the coolness of the early morning or evening. You may even take them to the local beach, creek or river to let them have a paddle to cool down. By avoiding the hottest part of the day, both you and your pets will enjoy the walk even more and your pets will avoid possible dehydration, sunburn and potentially painful paws.
- All pets must have cool, shady areas. Cats and dogs are able to move around and seek shade, but small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can't move from their cages. Make sure that your caged animals are not in direct sunlight and that their cages are protected from the sun as the shade moves.
- Make sure that your pets have access to plenty of cool water. It is a good idea to provide several good-sized water containers in case one is spilt. Ensure the containers are in the shade. Try adding some ice to the water to keep it cool for longer.
- Consider filling a small swimming pool (or a child's clam shell pool) with water and placing it in the shade. Your dog can then wade in the water to keep cool. If your pets share your yard with children, remember to have all necessary precautions in place, including fencing, in order to keep them safe.
- Never leave your pets in a car on a hot day, as they will not cope, even with the windows down. If it feels hot to a person sitting in a parked car, it will feel much hotter to an animal in a fur coat.
- Rabbits and guinea pigs are particularly susceptible to heat. A good remedy is to put a frozen water bottle in their cages so that they can regulate their body temperature. Replace these bottles as required.
- Small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets, as well as kittens and puppies, cope best if brought inside. If allowed free run in a laundry or bathroom, they will benefit from the cool tiles. If this is not possible, drape their cage with wet towels and provide a sturdy icepack or frozen water bottle for the animal to lean against so it can to regulate its own body temperature.
- If your animal seems to be in discomfort, try wetting its feet and misting water onto its face. This is an option for dogs, cats, ferrets, poultry and caged birds, as many animals control their inner temperature through their feet. It's important not to saturate a bird's feathers, as this can cause them to go into shock.
If you are concerned that your animal may be suffering heat-related illness, contact your local veterinarian.