Dogs should never be left in a car on a hot day – even in the shade or with windows open. If you are taking the dog on a car journey try to avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day. Ensure the dog is not in direct sunlight, and take plenty of water. On long trips, stop frequently, they should be drinking little and often, not gulping large quantities. If you have to leave the car for a comfort break, you should consider whether to take your dog if you don’t have a companion to leave with them. Dogs cool down by panting, which fills the air with moisture. In a hot car they can’t evaporate enough water quickly enough to cool down, plus the air can only hold so much moisture. Even with a boot or window open if there’s no breeze it could still get too hot for your dog. Never allow your dog to hang their head out of the window when driving.
Dogs shouldn’t be walked during the hottest part of the day, morning and evening are preferable. I find shady areas to walk your dogs, avoiding hot pavements which may burn their paws, and I always carry water. Dogs benefit most from little and often, so we do lots of pit stops and we do not walk as far as on cooler days.
During the day at home, most double glazing can be locked in the ‘ajar’ position to allow for fresh air and to catch any breeze if you are unable to leave windows open, or try moving the dogs to another area if necessary. Conservatories get VERY HOT, even ‘open plan’ with a conventional room the heat travels and can be stiffling. Blinds are essential, but won’t stop all the heat. A fan may be needed. A plastic bottle of tap water can be frozen, wrapped in a tea towel and left for your dog to lie against if they wish to, you can also do this for rabbits.
Open windows on the top floor can be hazardous to cats – they often land on their feet, but this can be followed by their jaws and teeth, which may then need medical attention.
Pets must be able to move out of a hot environment into a cooler one, so leave doors open in the house if necessary – bathrooms and kitchens can be a popular choice for pets, as the floor is often much cooler for them to lie on.
Try taking the dogs to ponds and pools to allow them to swim or paddle on very hot days. If they aren’t sure of the water, let them paddle in the shallows and gain some confidence. Seeing other dogs having fun can help, as can dropping a few treats around the edge, or maybe a floating toy if your dog loves toys. Once your dog gains in confidence you can put the toys in a little further so your dog has to move forwards. Some dogs look very surprised when they realise they can swim! So don’t push your dog too far, too fast.
Short-nosed, black and long-haired breeds can suffer more from the heat. If they overheat, soaking them in cool (not cold) water and rubbing it right down to the skin is more beneficial than covering them with a wet towel. Don’t forget underneath as well, the groin and ‘armpit’ area, as this is where most cooling will occur.
White dogs, cats and rabbits (or with white patches in sensitive areas), can get sunburn on ears, nose and around the eyes. Pet sunscreen is very rare, and hard to get hold of (products may be different for different species), so speak to your vet to see if they recommend a sunscreen – check with your insurance company that they will be covered if they have a reaction or lick it off. If your pet sunbathes on its back the stomach is at risk of burning, so keep them in the shade. Avoiding the sun is preferable.
Watch out for ticks while walking in long grass or meadows especially if there are horses or livestock nearby. These can be removed with a special ‘tick tweezer’. Avoid smothering or burning the tick as this can cause it to release saliva or stomach contents, raising the risk of infection Remove them as soon as possible as disease transmission risk increases the longer they are attached. Grass seeds can be a real hazard as if they find a small wound, graze, or even thin skin they can work their way inside your dog, so check paws, eyes and ears if they seem irritated, a vet visit may be needed to remove them.
Bee stings – remove the sting by scraping it with a hard object, avoid using tweezers as this can lead to more poison entering your pet. Bathe with bicarbonate of soda and water, also an ice pack can relieve pain. Wasp stings – bathe the area with vinegar. There will be some swelling, if this is excessive, or inside or around your dog’s mouth a vet check may be needed as pets can be allergic to stings in the same way humans can, and swelling can block the airway.
Adders are shy and will try to keep out of our way, but if disturbed, can bite. Although in humans this is rarely fatal, in dogs getting them to a vet immediately is essential. If your dog yelps or cries out and you can’t see what happened, check his head, face and front legs and paws for a pair of puncture marks – they may be red and begining to swell. These are the most usual places for bites, if you can see nothing, check the rest of your dog. If you find these marks phone your vet first, so they can prepare for a suspected bite while you travel.
Tips from other pet owners:
@boredombusters I’ve been known to put a soaking wet towel down for Honey to lie on our roll on to cool her off.
— Helen Bannan (@4by2training) July 24, 2012