- Keeping cool and hydrated is key to being healthy in the heat
- Be careful what your pet eats and drinks
- Plan how to avoid getting too hot and know what to do if it happens
Rachel Spencer (@rachspenwrites) speaks to three pet experts about what to remember when temperatures rise.
1. Be well turned out
'A heavy trim or thinning of fur is a good idea in the summer months to aid heat loss,' he recommends. 'Especially for long-haired breeds like Sheepdogs, who should have a haircut in the Spring.'
Long-haired cat fur can be prone to knotting at any time of the year, but especially in summer when snagging plants are in full bloom. To deal with knots and tangled fur, use your fingers to tease it apart – don't pull at it, as this will hurt your cat. If your fingers don't do the trick, try using a specialised comb or brush.
If you have a double-coated dog, talk to a professional before doing any grooming, as the extra layer of fur helps them regulate their body temperature.
‘The best way to help a double-coated dog stay cool is to take them to the groomer to blow out the undercoat,’ says Rachel Bean (@vetnurse69), a veterinary nurse and behaviourist who runs canine first aid courses. ‘You can use your own tools, but a professional groomer will have the right equipment to do the job efficiently.
‘Make sure the groomer knows you don't want to shave your dog. Talk to the groomer who’ll be working on your dog first to ensure they have experience with double-coated dogs.’
2. Fight fleas and ticks
Summer is flea season, so as well as trimming your pet's fur, you should also check it regularly for fleas – as well as keeping up to date with flea treatments.
There are plenty of flea shampoos on the market, but it's also a good idea to comb your pet's fur every so often to make sure all the fleas are dealt with.
Try to avoid walking your dog in areas where there could be ticks, but if a tick latches onto your pet don't touch it with your hands. Wear gloves and use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
Pull gently and steadily – don't yank or twist as this could burst the tick and release infection, or leave the tick's head still in the skin.
Once it's out, kill the tick with rubbing alcohol and carefully disinfect the bite on your pet. Try to store the tick somewhere safe – if you're pet gets sick, you may need to identify the species.
Check the tick bite regularly and if it gets infected take your pet to the vet.
3. Watch the water
When out walking, take water for both you and your dog to sip – don't let them drink from ponds, lakes or puddles and be careful with swimming too. You could also take a drinking bowl so your dog can rehydrate more easily.
'Don't assume groundwater, or water from a stream or river, is safe for your dog – it can be toxic,' says Dr. Mugford. 'Always carry your own.'
Short nosed dogs, like French or English Bulldogs and Boxers, don't lose as much heat through their nose so need to drink even more.
4. Wear sunscreen
Did you know that dogs can get sunburnt too? Wearing a cream with high Sun Protection Factor or SPF is important for you both.
'Your vet will be able to prescribe the right cream and advise on how to apply it,' says Dr. Jane Tyson from the RSPCA (@RSPCA_official). 'Lighter coloured dogs are more susceptible and can get burnt on the tips of their ears or their noses.'
5. Keep cool, boy
While many dogs and cats enjoy feeling warmth on their fur, make sure that it's only for short periods and they have a cool, shaded place to retreat to.
'Never leave animals in cars, outhouses, caravans and conservatories,' adds Dr Tyson. 'Temperatures can rocket really quickly and can lead to animal health risks in a very short time.'
6. Stay safe in the car
Being stuck in a traffic jam is a nuisance, but for pets it's dangerous. Both cats and dogs can get overheated in a car, but that's what air-conditioning is for. If your pet starts panting rapidly in hot conditions turn up the cool air.
'The window shades that you have for children work for pets too and keep sun from their eyes,' advises Dr. Mugford. 'Keep a five litre bottle of water in the car at all times in case of breakdown. You need to be able to wet your dog so, in case of emergency, carry a towel, wet it and slip it over the dog.'
7. Exercise in moderation
It's good for us all to stay active in summer, but running around in the heat can lead to exhaustion and heatstroke.
'Tongues lolling out means your dog isn't happy,' explains Dr. Mugford. 'A dog's nose is meant to be cold so check regularly and if it isn't, stop, sit in the shade and give them water. Be moderate with their exercise in hot weather, and your exercise too!'
Pets on dry food will feel thirst more so need access to water for two hours after eating.
8. Watch what you eat
We love to barbecue in summer but try to resist throwing your dog or cat a banger as they contain harmful things like garlic and onion.
'Get some pet-friendly sausages or some plain chicken to grill for them so they're not left out,' says Rachel Bean. 'Keep dogs away from skewers as they may chew or swallow them, which can perforate the stomach or intestines, and corn on the cob, as they can cause blockages.'
If your pet does eat something that upsets their tummy, it could mean a trip to the vet, so make sure your pet insurance policy is up to date.
9. Check for bites, stings and scrapes
Run your hands over your dog to check for lumps, ticks, cuts and scrapes after a woodland walk and use a pet-friendly insect repellent.
'If your dog has been stung and there's no sign of allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock, you can treat them at home,' says Rachel Bean. 'With bee stings, ice reduces pain and swelling and alkaline bicarbonate of soda paste can counteract the acid.
'With wasp stings, use a mix of vinegar and water as these are acidic which counteracts the alkaline venom.'
Finally, enjoy the sunshine! You know your pet the best and by following these tips you'll both be set for a safe and happy summer.