Ask the Vet

This month, our resident animal expert Dr Enric Pallarols looks at how to care for your pet when the temperature rises.

Summer is upon us, and while we might not be blessed with sunshine every day, we may have spells of sweltering heat, as experienced recently. So first, it’s important to recognise the signs of overheating in your pet: this may be stopping more often than usual during walks and looking for shade; excessive panting and difficulty breathing; lethargy; drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea; and even collapse.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of changing dog-walking times to avoid going outside when it’s too hot. It’s best to get out early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night. Bring plenty of fresh water and avoid walking your dog on pavements if it’s too hot as they could burn their pads. (Don’t allow them to drink sea water or swimming pool water as this could be fatal.)

Avoid leaving pets in conservatories and try to leave fans or air-conditioning on for them, or buy a cooling mat. Needless to say, never leave your pet inside a car without supervision, and during a car journey always leave the AC on. Brush your pet well to remove excess hair – some dogs like a trim in summer. Pets with white coats, or certain breeds such as sphinx cats, may need a pet sunscreen as they’re more susceptible to sunburn, especially around the nose and ears.

If your cat likes to spend time outside, leave bowls with fresh water in your garden or around your house. They like to find shade in the garden with free access to go back inside.

If you keep rabbits or guinea pigs in a hutch outside, consider taking them indoors with air-conditioning or fans on. Also, you could leave a bottle with frozen water inside the crate to create a cooler spot or give them frozen cucumber.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats don’t sweat from the skin so they can have a harder time cooling down. Try using cold towels, especially around their paws; offering ice cubes for them to lick; or giving them frozen vegetables. If you notice excessive panting or lethargy in your pet, or you suspect they may be having a health stroke, visit your vet urgently to avoid further complications, as sadly this could be fatal.

Top tip: never shave your pet completely as they could get sunburn.

Dr Enric Pallarols 

is Branch Partner at Medivet in Twickenham

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