As the weather gets warmer in the UK, with temperatures reaching an estimated 32c, it’s important to be prepared for the days ahead for your dog or cat. By keeping them cool you’ll reduce the risk of heatstroke – which can be fatal to both canines and felines – and allow them to remain comfortable during this hot sunny spell.

Signs of heatstroke

Firstly, it’s very important to know the signs of heatstroke in your pets. Both dogs and cats suffer from heatstroke when they overheat because they can not reduce their body temperature.

It’s worth noting this can happen not just during a heatwave but also in warm temperatures throughout Spring/Summer. It’s crucial to know how to avoid this and to be aware of the signs.

Dogs and cats: heatwave

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

Any dog can develop heatstroke, but overweight, young, elderly, flat-faced, giant-breed, and thick-coated dogs are particularly at risk, even from just sitting out in the hot weather.

The most common signs of a heatstroke, outlined by Battersea, include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion or loss of coordination
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Shaking or weakness
  • Seizures

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you need to immediately contact your vets. Whilst contacting your vet, there are some things you can do to help reduce their body temperature.

 

  • Move your dog to a shaded and cool area, preferable indoors
  • Keep them calm and still
  • Lay them down on a cool wet towel, cooling mat or place them in the breeze of a fan
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water
  • Pour or spray cool water over the dog’s feet, ears and head
  • Gradually start to move cool water over their body but not too much that they start shivering
  • If possible, continue cooling your dog on the way to your vet

 

Whilst trying to cool down your dog, never use ice or very cold water as this can cause shock and there’s then an increased risk of fatality.

Signs of heatstroke in cats

Many people are aware of heatstroke in dogs but are less aware that cats can also suffer.

All cats are at risk of heatstroke, however, other predisposing factors for cats can include: cats with flat faces/short snouts, overweight or obese, heart problems, breathing problems, neurological disease, thick/long hair coat (kitten, junior or old) and dehydration.

Signs of heatstroke in cats are similar to dogs, however cats have a tendency to hide signs they are in distress or need medical attention. It’s important to pay close attention to any changes in their behaviour during the heatwave.

Signs according to the RSPCA Pet Insurance include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness (cats may pace)
  • Bright red tongue
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea (potentially with blood)
  • Signs of confusion
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Reduced urine production
Dogs and cats: heatwave

If you have concerns or think your cat is suffering from heatstroke, you need to immediately seek veterinary help. Whilst contacting your vet, there are some things you can do to help reduce their body temperature:

  • Move your cat to a shaded and cool area, preferable indoors
  • Apply or spray cool water onto their fur and skin
  • Then apply a fan/fanning to maximise heat loss
  • Wetting down the area around your pet can also help

 

Whilst cooling your cat, don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this can put them into shock and, like dogs, cause an increased risk of a fatality.

Ways to protect your dog during the heatwave

Preparation is key when you know there is a heatwave on the horizon. By understanding and planning your week around the hot weather, it will reduce your dog’s risk of getting heatstroke.

Plan Your Walks

We always recommend avoiding walking your dog during a heatwave. Whilst humans can adapt and cope with hot temperatures, dogs can not cope or regulate their body temperature.

If your dog needs to be walked, a gentle walk very early in the morning or late evening when the temperature has significantly reduced is a safer option. 

Even then, walk your dog in shady environments, take regular breaks, take water, and do not allow them to be out of the house for long periods.

Always Remember Water

Water is essential for your dog all year round, especially on a hot day. Always ensure your dog’s water bowl is topped up with cool, fresh water.

Provide various water bowls around your house so they have access to enough water in case they can’t make it to their usual spot.

If you do opt to walk your dog during the early morning or late evening, you need to ensure you have a water bottle for them to drink from.

Dogs and cats: heatwave

Protect Your Dog's Paws

Test surface areas such as concrete slabs, decking, tarmac or even sand using the back of your hand. If these surfaces are hot to the touch, they will be painful for your dog’s paws. Only allow them to wander on grassy or shaded areas.

Be Extra Careful on the Beach

During hot spells, the beach may be a tempting destination to go with your dog, but it could be unpleasant for them if you are unprepared. You’ll need to make sure your pet has shade using a windbreaker or cover, and be sure to provide them with plenty to drink.

You’ll also need to be mindful if your dog decides to go swimming in the sea and make sure they’re not swallowing too much sea water, or that the currents aren’t too strong for them.

Regular Grooming

Long haired dogs can get very hot walking around in the sun because of their thick, fluffy fur. To make sure your dog stays as cool as possible, you should brush them regularly to get rid of excess shed hair.

You may want to consider visiting your local groomers to ensure their fur is cut short depending on their breed.

Refreshing Treats

Most dogs love munching on ice cubes and you’ll find they’re great for keeping your dog refreshed and hydrated. Keep a tray in your freezer to pop in their water bowl or try freezing chicken or beef stock for a tastier treat.

Dogs and cats: heatwave

Do NOT Leave Your Dog in the Car

Dogs die in hot cars! This should be avoided during any period of the year but especially during a heatwave as the heat of the sun intensifies as it shines through your car windows.

On a day where it’s 22 degrees Celcius outside – not at all rare in the UK – the interior of a car can reach as high as 47 in just an hour. Confined to an increasingly hot space like this, dogs will quickly overheat, even within a few minutes, and die.

The person responsible for leaving a dog in a car could be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Punishments include fines of up to £20,000 or as much as six months in prison. In a situation where a dog appears to be suffering, and someone breaks into a car by any means to rescue it, the individual is likely to be excused from any criminal damage charges.

If you need to make trips to the shop with your dog in the car we recommend you leave them at home. In unexpected circumstances that you need to leave your dog, please drop them off at home first where they are most safe.

Ways to protect your cat during the heatwave

Like dogs, there are also precautions you can take with your cat in preparation for the heatwave. Cats also need to be cooled down during the day and there are things you can do to avoid them overheating.

Create a cool room

Closing your blinds and curtains during the day will help to cool down your house. However, we understand sometimes it’s not possible to close off all of your house from the sun.

Instead, creating a cool room where you can close the blinds or curtains will help to cool down your feline. Setting up a fan in this room will also help reduce your cat’s temperature.

Dogs and cats: heatwave
Dogs and cats: heatwave

Protect your cat from the sun

Cat’s love to snooze in the sun, however, it’s not just humans who are at risk of sunburn – our feline friends can be too! Although fur is a great sun barrier, cats can still get sunburnt especially on thin furred areas or areas with no fur, such as the ears and nose. Cats that are hairless, such as Sphynx cats, or light in colour such as ginger or white cats, are especially at risk.

Protecting cats from sunburn is vital, as it can lead to a skin cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. When the weather is hot and you’re lathering sun cream on your own skin, remember to protect the exposed areas on your cat with pet-safe sun cream too, especially if they might be more vulnerable to sun damage. You can further protect your cat by creating plenty of shaded areas for them to snooze in.

Keep your cat hydrated

As many cat owners will know, getting your cat to drink and stay hydrated can be tricky.

When providing your cat with water, just remember:

  • Avoid plastic bowls. In the heat, these can taint the taste of the water. Use glass, ceramic or metal instead
  • Place water bowls away from food bowls. as your cat doesn’t like to drink in the same place that they eat
  • Make sure the water bowl is large, with a big surface area too, as cats do not like their whiskers being touched
  • Keep the water topped up to make sure your cat isn’t left without any water
  • Many cats prefer running water, so try offering a cat fountain to encourage them to drink
  • Putting water bowls in different places around the house will help cats always find a place to drink
  • If you feed your cat tinned food, small amounts of water can be mixed into the food, which will increase fluid intake
Dogs and cats: heatwave

Don’t be afraid to offer them ice!

Contrary to popular belief, ice can be a good and safe way to help keep your cat cool. You can provide your cat with ice cubes to bat and chase around the floor. Cats have sweat glands in their paws which help to cool them down so playing with an ice cube will help them during hot spells. Freezing treats such as Lick e Lix will help reduce their body temperature or even pop a few ice cubes in their water bowl!

Dogs and cats: heatwave

Outdoor cats

During the heatwave, you might want to encourage your cat to stay home and out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. This is really important if you think your cat is at high risk of heatstroke or sunburn. Depending on the temperatures, allow your cat to explore in the early morning and at evening when the weather is likely to be cooler.

You can also encourage them to nap indoors during the hotter parts of the day by playing with them at dawn and dusk, and offering their breakfast a little later to tempt them to come home before it gets too warm.

Enjoying the weather with your pets

Once you have prepared your household for one of the hottest heat waves the UK has faced in over 30 years, you can sit back and enjoy the glorious weather. Understanding what to do to keep your pets cool, reduces any serious risks to your companions and allows you to be more at ease.

We hope you found this article useful and are feeling prepared to tackle the summer heat!

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Written by: Hayley Brown
Digital Marketing Coordinator