Just like us, our pets can suffer greatly in the heat - and some of our pets are less equipped to handle the hot weather than others. Heat stroke can be deadly, so we have a few tips to help your pets cope with the heat.
Dogs & cats
For dogs, avoiding exercise and play in the heat is best as it’s harder for our canine friends to cool down than it is for us.
If they do get hot, shaded wading pools and frozen treats can be a fun way to cool down. Making frozen treats can be as easy as putting dog treats or biscuits in a clean ice-cream container, filling with fresh water and freezing.
Cats will enjoy cool hiding holes to escape the heat and some will even enjoy frozen treats just like dogs. Remembering to keep your cat hydrated is essential and can be done by setting out multiple water bowls to drink from. You can also get drinking fountains: some cats prefer to drink from running water.
For both cats and dogs, clipping or brushing out their coat regularly will help them stay cool as excess hair traps heat. There is a common view that thick, double coats make very good insulation (thus protecting the animal from the heat). While this works well in theory, it only applies if the dog (or cat) is staying quiet and out of the sun. It certainly will not prevent overheating if the dog is exercising in the heat. Short coats also makes it easier to do tick searches – double win!
There are also cooling mats that you can use for cats and dogs, giving them somewhere cool to relax.
Small pets - rodents & guinea pigs
Our small pets can get just as hot as our large ones; a great way to cool them down is by setting up small fans and shallow water bowls in their shaded enclosure. This gives them somewhere cool to play when temperature soar.
Just like cats and dogs, small pets can use ice-blocks & cooling mats to sit on and will also enjoy munching on frozen treats. These can be made by putting some of their usual food or fresh fruit and vegies into an ice-pole or ice-cube mold, filling with fresh water and freezing. There are powdered supplements for guinea such as Vetafarm’s Critta-care Herbivore that works really well as ice-blocks.
It is also important to remember to avoid stressing our little friends out or overhandling them when it’s warm as stress can elevate body temperature.
Placing wet towels over aviaries and providing a good flow of cool air can help cool our feathered family members. It's also probably a good idea to make sure those outdoor aviaries are in the shade.
Cool water baths or fountains are also a favourite with many birds, including wild birds. They also look great in aviaries. Keep the water shallow to avoid drowning (especially with small birds). If you are putting a bird bath up in your yard for wild birds, make sure its away from tree trunks and not under any branches (to stop any neighbourhood cats from ambushing the birds).
Freezing fruit, vegetables or meat (depending on the species of bird) not only makes great cool treats, but they also provide some novelty for the birds.
Reptiles & fish
Even though most of our reptile friends are used to a bit of heat, it is very important to keep their enclosure at the right temperature and humidity for their species and provide cool down spots away from the heat source. All terrariums should have a thermometer and hygrometer (measures humidity) that are checked regularly so that the environment can be monitored and adjusted as needed.
As with reptiles, it is very important that fish tanks are kept at the correct temperature for their species. Temperature has a significant effect on the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in the water. Different species of fish have adapted to different temperatures and oxygen levels. Thermostats are essential for tropical fish (often they come combined with the heating unit), but you also need to use thermostats with chillers for cold water (marine) fish!
The amount of oxygen dissolved in the water will also be affected by surface area (at the water level), especially in warmer weather, so we recommend using an airstone during summer to improve the oxygen level in the tank.
For our big kids (horses, cattle etc.): shade, shade, shade.
If livestock need to be moved, treated or exercised, that should be done very early in the morning while they're still cool. Most importantly, provide plenty of fresh, clean water. We don't recommend putting food or water troughs under trees however, as that is one of the risk factors for Hendra virus in horses (put troughs under shelters instead).
Keeping flies etc. off can also help reduce stress as well as preventing some diseases.
Easy access to fresh, clean, cool water and plenty of shade are key to keeping our pets comfortable. Many animals will not drink very much water in the heat if the water itself is hot. Most importantly, if any of your pets are showing signs that they're struggling, call us immediately. Early treatment for heat stroke can make all the difference.