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    Essential hot weather safety tips for pets

    Keeping your furry friends safe in the sun

    Hannah | Oneflare

    While summer often means barbeques, beach days and music festivals for us, the season may not be as fun for your pet. While the extra time off and glorious weather seems like the perfect opportunity to take them for walks, the increased heat, higher numbers of pests such as ticks and snakes, as well as the bushfire risk, makes summer a tough time for our four-legged friends.

    The dangers of heatstroke in pets

    In summer, it’s not just our safety we have to think about. Cats and dogs don’t have the same body cooling systems we do and easily get overheated. The main causes of heatstroke in pets include:

    • Hot and humid environments with bad ventilation (such as being in a car or windowless room)
    • Limited or no access to shade
    • Limited access to fresh drinking water
    • Too much exercise

    Some of the main signs you need to look out for include:

    • Excessive panting
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Drooling and salivating
    • Restlessness and agitation
    • Extremely red or pale gums
    • Vomiting and diarrhoea
    • Confusion and delirium
    • Lethargy
    • Seizures and collapsing

    The best cure for heatstroke is prevention. To help your furry friend stay cool over summer, make sure the environment they spend most of their time in is well-ventilated with access to plenty of drinking water. For outdoor dogs, make sure they always have access to shade throughout the day. You should never leave your pet in a car, even on cooler days, and avoid over-exercising them in hot weather.

    Exercise for dogs is still important for their physical health. Check temperature forecasts ahead of time and take your dog for a short walk at the coolest time in the day, which is usually in the early morning or evening.

    But what if your pet is suffering from heatstroke? Don’t panic – simply get them to a cool environment right away, spray cool water (not iced water) on their skin and fur, and take them to the vet. You don’t want to take any chances because heatstroke is an emergency and shouldn’t be ignored.

    Don’t forget to keep your pets cool and comfortable during the warmer months / Source: Shutterstock

    Breeds who need special summer care

    Some pets deal with the heat better than others. From heatstroke to sunburn, it’s important to know how vulnerable your furry friend is to the Australian summer. It’s usually breeds with thick double coats that are prone to matting, those with limited hair, or those with short noses, broad skulls, and structural issues with their upper respiratory system that are most at risk of overheating.

    For dogs, these include:

    • Pugs
    • Boxers
    • Bulldogs
    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
    • Maltese
    • Chinese Crested
    • Golden Retriever
    • Saint Bernard
    • Alaskan Malamute

    For cats, these include:

    • Persians
    • Himalayans
    • Exotics
    • Sphynx

    For all breeds, it’s also important to pay extra attention to elderly, obese or very young pets.

    Think twice about shaving your dog

    We’d do anything to make our pets feel comfortable. But is shaving them in summer such a good idea? It might seem like a no-brainer, but your pet’s hair isn’t like a human’s. While there are some exceptions, most experts recommend against shaving your dog’s or cat’s hair altogether.

    When it comes to dogs, shaving actually doesn’t keep them cool. This is particularly true for many double-coated breeds such as retrievers, terriers, and herding breeds. To explain the science behind this, let’s start by describing what a double coat actually is. Basically, the term refers to a combination of long, stiff guard hairs (outer layer) and short, fluffy dense hairs (undercoat).

    In summer, your dog should naturally shed its undercoat, leaving only the guard hairs. The role of these guard hairs in summer is to protect your dog from the sun, as well as allowing cool air to insulate them from the heat. If you shave your dog, you’re actually exposing them to sunburn, skin cancer and even heatstroke.

    The same can be said of cats. Like dogs, their coat is designed to keep them cool during the summer and warm in the winter. By shaving them, you’re interfering with their inbuilt temperature regulator. Because cats are usually more mobile than dogs given their adventurous nature, they will naturally find it much easier to move to a cooler spot when the heat rises.

    There are exceptions to the rule, especially with dogs. But it’s less about shaving, more about grooming. Some older dogs need help to self-groom, as do pooches that spend a lot of time outside and are prone to matted or wet coats, or have skin diseases such as hot spots or myiasis. In these cases, it’s best to first consult your vet and consider hiring a professional groomer.

    Snake and tick bites

    As the temperature rises, so does the risk of snake and tick bites. Both of these pests love the warm weather, so take precautions should your pet be bitten.

    Snakes like areas with rocks and tall grass, so maintain your garden to deter any of these reptiles from setting up camp in your backyard. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, keep an eye out for these symptoms:

    • Shaking
    • Twitching of muscles
    • Vomiting
    • Paralysis
    • Enlarged pupils
    • Loss of bladder control
    • Weakness

    Ticks are also a big danger in summer as their bites release a toxin that induces paralysis. Symptoms for tick bites are:

    • Choking
    • An inability to bark properly

    If your pet is showing any of these symptoms take them to the vet immediately.

    Bushfire safety for pets

    Bushfire preparedness is a must for anyone who lives in affected areas. When you put together your bushfire plan (the NSW Rural Fire Service has some great tips on bushfire preparedness if you need help) make sure your pets are accounted for!

    Make sure your pet’s crate, water bowl, food, medication and blankets are together in an accessible area which will be easy to transfer from your home should you need to evacuate. This way your pet will have all their essentials with them.

    At the same time, keep your pet in a secure area so you know where they are should the need for evacuation arise. The last thing you want to do is be trying in vain to round up a panicked and stressed pet during an emergency.

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