With temperatures soaring causing record heat waves around much of the northern hemisphere this summer, it is pertinent that we keep calm and stay cool.
That’s all good and well for those of us who aren’t covered in fur or feathers―we can peel off the layers, sit under the fan or the AC unit, have a cold shower, or go for a swim, move our office into the walk-in refrigerator at the café down the road.
But what about our pets? And what about when the AC goes down due to over-usage power outages? How can we make sure that our pets stay cool this scorcher of a summer? Water, shade, and airflow are the key factors, but here are a few pet-specific pointers.
Dogs, unlike humans, don’t have sweat glands and so cannot sweat to cool themselves down. The only way they can lose body heat is through their mouths (panting) and through the pads of their feet. When it gets really hot, here are a few tips to help dogs stay cool:
- Make sure there is plenty of fresh water to drink.
- Utilise your kids’ paddling pool or the bath and let your dog lie in shallow water to cool down, but never leave them unsupervised.
- Bring your dog inside where they can benefit from fans and air conditioning.
- If they have to stay outside, keep them out of the sun―consider how the sun will move while you are at work and make sure your dog will have shade all day.
- Spray them down with water―a sprinkler or the garden hose is perfect for this, or use a hand mister.
- Make sure your dog is in an open, ventilated space with room to move around.
Cats are much the same as dogs, they have very few sweat glands and they lose most of their heat through their paw pads. A panting cat is not a common sight but cats will do this, just like dogs, in order to cool down. You know it’s really hot if your cat is panting! Most of the same things apply to cats as dogs―plenty of fresh water being key―although I wouldn’t try putting a cat in a paddling pool unless you are sure that your feline is actually a dog in a catsuit. Here are a few more tips:
- Ice cubes in the water bowl.
- Wrap an ice pack (not a gel pack, as your cat could perforate it) or bottle of frozen water in a tea towel and leave it in your cat’s favourite spot.
- Air flow―you can elevate your cat’s bed to maximise the cooling effect of fans etc.
- Wipe your cat down with a wet cloth to dampen the fur.
Birds have no sweat glands at all, and yep, you guessed it, when it’s hot, birds will pant too. They also hold their wings out from their bodies to cool the wing arteries that run through the featherless area beneath their wings.
- Ventilation―make sure your birds’ cage has plenty of airflow
- Shade―yeah, it’s a no-brainer, but make sure your bird is not in direct sunlight
- Drinking water
- Misting―spray your birds with a fine hand-misting device, or in lager aviaries, install a fogger or set up a sprinkler that will dampen the aviary
- Dab cool water under the wings of heat stricken birds with a wet cloth, this will help to cool the wing arteries
- Baths―make sure your birds can get into cool, clean water
- Bring outdoor birds inside to get out of the heat, but be careful putting them back outside, as sudden changes in temperature can be harmful
Obviously, the most important things to consider with all pets during the heat this summer are making sure they have plenty of fresh water, shade, and airflow. If your pet shows any signs of abnormal behaviour related to heatstroke, contact your vet immediately.
Words: Sharnon Mentor-King
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About the author
Sharnon Mentor-King is a freelance writer and editor from New Zealand, currently living and writing in Dharamsala in northern India. When she is not worrying about how your pets are going to fare through the heat wave, she spends her time writing bad poetry and excellent young adult fantasy. She has been working on her first novel, A Way to Return, for nearly half her life, and if she ever finishes it, it will be a miracle. Let us pray.