Friday, November 20, 2015

Keeping companion animals comfortable in the heat

If you're heading to the beach, skip the middle of the day - early or late is better.

Sydney is in the grip of a heatwave which looks set to continue today. We can easily forget that humans can mostly cope with weather extremes because we have the ability to control our environment. At very least we can move into the shade. Not all animals have this ability and they rely on us remembering to control their environment for them.

SAT fans Charlie and Jessie relaxed in a cool bath yesterday.
They weren't getting out, even when the water disappoeared.

You can read more about the symptoms of heat stress (and some pathophysiology) here.

How do we prevent heat stress in animals?

  • Where possible, keep animals indoors in a well ventilated or air conditioned space;
  • Avoid exercising pets during the hottest parts of the day (9-5pm) and don’t over-exert animals on hot days;
  • Remember that shade moves – so if you do have an enclosure in the shade, be able to move this.  Be mindful that temperatures can also soar in the shade.
  • Provide a coolness gradient for pocket pets by placing a leak-proof ice-brick (wrapped) or icebucket (which cannot be tipped over) at one end of the enclosure so they can move away from or towards it;
  • Provide fresh, cool and iced water;
  • Monitor the environmental temperature at the level the animal is kept;
  • If you can, check on animals through the day (work from home, slip home at your lunchbreak) to ensure they have adequate water and are comfortable (if you work indoors AND your employer with okay with it AND your animal is comfortable in your workplace, its one of those days that taking them to work might be a good idea);
  • Many dogs (though not all) will enjoy a cool shower or bath. For animals that hate the bath, giving them a sponge bath by patting them with a wrung out flannel or similar can help keep them cool;
  • You can always take your dog for a swim if they enjoy swimming (not all dogs feel comfortable in the water);
  • Brachycephalic or flatter faced breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs are much more vulnerable to heat stress due to the reduced surface area in their air ways;
  • Don’t leave animals in vehicles.