Surviving Melbourne’s Summer 2014

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Summer…the season that most Melbournians can’t wait for all year.  A chance for us pet owners to get out and have some fun in the sun with our animals.  Although this is generally a fantastic time of year for our pets, it can also be very tough on our four legged (and two legged/no legged) friends.

With the severe heatwaves we have had so far this summer, and the scorching days we still have to come, animals are among the most vulnerable to the sweltering heat.

Many Vets around Melbourne receive numerous phone calls and visits from concerned pet owners during these summer heatwaves with the most common worrying complaints being their beloved pets showing signs of lethargy, excessive panting and breathing difficulties.  Certain animals, mainly dogs can be more susceptible to the heat than others – if they are overweight, geriatric, have a heart condition, long hair or flat faces       (eg – Pugs).

Unlike people, who have the ability to sweat through their skin, pets will cool off through the pads of their feet and also with the use of their tongues, will often pant to regulate their temperature.

A major concern that we are seeing is the ever growing number of dogs being left in cars and also on the trays of tradesmen utes.  With the soaring temperature outside and the rising mercury, the temperature inside a car can and has caused many fatalities in Melbourne.  Even with the windows partially open, it’s far too dangerous to leave your dog unattended on these hot days.

Larger dogs chained to the trays of tradesmen utes on these sweltering days should also be avoided as the temperature from the sun heats up the metal trays and can burn the dogs pads – and these dogs have no way of escape.

Not only can heat threats occur in parked cars, they can also happen in your own suburban backyard.  When animals are kept outside on hot days it is very important to provide them with a cool shaded area for them to lie as well as plenty of fresh water, along with extra water sources in case of spillage.

Plastic Kiddy Shell pools from K-mart ($24.95) are fantastic for larger dogs that live outside.  Fill the shell with shallow water and it gives your dog a place to lay and cool off if he/she needs to.

For pets that live indoors, air conditioning is your best bet for keeping them cool and comfortable during the steamy days.  Plug in Fans are a great option, as well as Cooling Pet beds which are available to purchase online or at your local pet supplies store.  It’s also amazing to see the relief our pets get just from lying on some ceramic tiles in the house also!

Providing some fun popsicle style treats for your dogs is also a great idea.  By placing bits of dry food or treats in ice cube trays with water, and freezing them allows another way of keeping your pet cool.  This could be a great reward after they have a walk (either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, to avoid the heat of the day).

As well as our Dogs and Cats, there are our other pets which require us to help them keep cool in the heat.  Rabbits, Rats, Mice, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets are all warm blooded and have super thick coats.  To prevent heat stress, the best thing to do for these little guys is to bring them inside on days over approximately 28 degrees.  If this is not an option, try placing a ceramic tile in their enclosure, frozen water bottles for them to lie against, or even a damp towel placed inside.

Pet Birds and backyard chooks can be assisted by watering down the soil in the enclosure and giving them a light spray with a water bottle.  Birds can handle the heat a lot better than our other animals as their feathers act as insulation, how clever!

Last but not least, our little fish who live in an outdoor pond can actually cook in the heat.  By using a hose or a bucket, add some cool water to the pond 2-3 times during the day.  Fish with heat stress with not swim around as usual and will either be seen at the surface gulping for air, or at the bottom of the pond to try to access some cooler water.

Above all else, the main requirement of pet owners this time of year in ‘observation’.  Watch your pets carefully on hot days and give them extra care to help them safely enjoy summer and if by chance your pet does show signs of heat stress, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.