Even the chillest of pets can get hot and bothered during summer. The season, fun as it is, can be a hectic time for our three-, four- and no-legged friends; hot weather, loud noises, and changes to routine can all have an impact.
“Summer is all about family, which of course includes companion animals,” says Fiona Webster, CEO of Melbourne’s Lort Smith Animal Hospital. With no opposable thumbs to operate a fan or air conditioner, a rather insurmountable language barrier, and (in some cases) a furry coat that can’t be taken off, it falls to us as owners to look out for our pets’ needs in the warmer months.
So what can we do to keep them cool and calm?
Give them water. Lots of it.
“Animals need plenty of hydration – make sure your pets have access to multiple bowls of water,” says Lort Smith head of hospital Dr David Cunliffe. So even if your pet already has a dedicated drinking bowl, during summer time it is a good idea to dot more around the house in places they can access and keep an eye on how full they are.
Access to water doesn’t stop at drinking it – if you’ve got a larger dog, Cunliffe suggests getting a paddling pool for them to cool off in.
Consider getting them a haircut.
Does your cat or dog (lizards, you can sit this one out) have luscious locks? “If you have a long-haired pet, it can be a good idea to have them clipped,” says Cunliffe. Sure, like any haircut, it could end up looking either cute or hilarious, but it’s less about fashion and more about comfort. And anyway, it will grow back.
Don’t go on a road-trip without aircon.
No ifs or buts about this one: “No long car rides without air-conditioning,” says Cunliffe.
Avoid long grass and keep an eye on the garden.
It’s a tricky balance – if you’re walking your pet, you don’t want it to burn its feet. But grass contains its own dangers. “Snake bites are very painful for pets, and can even be life threatening,” says Cunliffe. “73 per cent of reported snakebites in dogs occur in the backyard, so keep grass and plants under control.”
Snakes aren’t the only things hiding in the greenery either. “Grass seeds are another reason to avoid long grass this summer. Grass seeds can get caught in your dog’s coat during a walk or playing in long grass and then get lodged in the skin, toes, ears, nose or behind the eyelids.”
Be flexible with your routine, and try iced treats when you are.
On hot days it’s best to walk your dog either early in the morning or in the evening, or, failing that, perhaps not at all. Exercising in hot weather takes more out of them, and there’s also the temperature of the pavement to take into consideration. Just because they’re staying home at a time they’re usually out doesn’t mean your dog has to go stir crazy – one way to keep them engaged and stimulated in this situation is with ice treats, which you can make by freezing a Kong with peanut butter inside.
Exercise Christmas caution and make home a safe haven.
The festive season often means a whole lot of food – both on the day and afterwards. In addition to keeping curious noses out of saucepans and bowls, Cunliffe says, “avoid giving your pets chocolate or any leftovers from Christmas lunch.”
Then there’s the other “f”. Fireworks! If you’re leaving your dog at home when fireworks are scheduled, it’s worth taking a few extra steps to make them feel more safe. “On New Year’s Eve we always see quite a few injuries to dogs panicking, and trying to escape,” says Cunliffe. “Consider shutting the windows and leaving the TV or radio on to provide some calming white noise.”
Lort Smith is a not-for-profit organisation that has been caring for Melbourne’s animals for the past 82 years. Their Christmas appeal can be found here. No matter how careful you are it’s impossible to predict every eventuality: make sure your pet is microchipped and the information is up to date.