Below is a list of practical advice on how to keep our pet friends cool. For products relating to keeping your pet cool and healthy during periods of high temperature see our Keeping Pets Cool collection.
All dogs can be affected by heat stress, and some dog breeds are more predisposed to heat-related illnesses. Dogs most likely to suffer from heat stress are those with pre-existing breathing problems and short-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Boxers. Symptoms include excessive salivating, weakness, lethargy, shaking, dry nose and gums, whining and constant panting. If pets exhibit these symptoms, a vet should be consulted immediately.
The checklist for heatstroke in dogs includes: heavy panting; profuse salivation; a rapid pulse; very red gums/tongue; lethargy; lack of coordination; reluctance or inability to rise after collapsing; vomiting; diarrhoea; loss of consciousness in extreme circumstances.
Take immediate action if your dog is displaying any of these symptoms. Cool it down gradually and then take it straight to the vet – heatstroke can be fatal. To cool your dog, douse it in cool water (not cold) and let it drink small quantities of cool water, until its breathing has steadied.
Apply pet sunscreen if your dog has a light-coloured nose or ears. Mammals burn just like humans, and can even develop skin cancer.
Here are our top tips for keeping your dog cool
Exercise your dog early in the morning or late at night.
It's best to avoid walking and running your dog on hot days or humid nights. Remember dogs have a fur coat on and dogs can't sweat. Take water for your dog with you on a walk. Watch put for hot pavement as it can burn your dogs feet. If it is too hot for you to hold your hand on the pavement for more than 10 seconds, it is too hot for your dog to walk on.
Keep your dog hydrated.
Different dogs have different needs when battling the heat. Keep in mind that darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats. Also, overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration. If you are out all day, make sure your dog has enough water and that it is in the shade. Automatic waterers are a great way to make sure enough fresh water is available at all times. Plastic bowls are easily knocked over whereas heavier terracotta ones will not only keep water cooler but are also more stable.
Find interesting ways to cool your dog.
Don't have air conditioning? No problem! Find a spot in the shade and set up a kiddie clam pool with some dog toys in it. Your dog can then wade in the water to keep cool. If your dog shares your yard with children, remember to have all necessary precautions in place, including fencing, in order to keep them safe. Lay down a wet towel for your dog to lie on. Icy treats are another great option to keep your dog cool and also entertained.
Watch for signs of dehydration.
Dogs can't sweat. They cool off by panting, so an overheated dog will drool excessively. It will become lethargic, its eyes will be bloodshot, and it may appear a little pale. If you lift its skin, it will take longer than usual for the skin to fall back into place.
Dogs cool from their feet up.
Make sure to spray the paws and stomach, not just the top of the dog, if you spray your dog with water. A wet towel is more effective under your dog than on the top of its coat.
Let your dog dig if possible.
Your dog may resort to finding his own way to avoid the heat. Dog in nature dig their dens not out of frustration but to find food, hide, give birth--or keep cool! If it's possible, locate a shady area where it's okay for your dog to dig.
Never leave your dog in a parked car.
An open window or a windshield screen isn't enough to keep the car cool. According to the RSPCA, if it's 22C outside, within an hour it can be 47C inside a car. Dogs die this way every year – don't let yours be one of them. On longer trips, make sure you have water for the dog and keep the air conditioning running.
Have long-coated dogs clipped, and groom all breeds regularly.
Use hot weather as an excuse to swim more often!
The best activity you can do in summertime or hot weather is swimming. Take your dog to the local beach, creek or river to let it have a paddle to cool down. Some people even swim with their dogs in their pool.
Cats enjoy warm weather. They are also good at keeping themselves cool if necessary, with a little help from humans.
Here are our top tips for keeping your cat cool
Keep your cat inside between 10am and 3pm. If they do go outside at any point, apply a pet sunscreen which can't be licked off to the nose and ears, particularly for pale-coloured cats.
Provide your cat with plenty of water, in various positions around the house. Cats often prefer their water to be placed away from their food.
Keep the blinds closed and the curtains shut to keep the house cool for your cat. Keep the windows closed if it is hotter outside than inside.
Let your cat choose a cool place to lie down. They will naturally gravitate towards a slate floor or a fan in summer, just as they will curl up in a warm place in winter.
Don't worry if your cat is sleepy during the day. Cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day and will sensibly nap even more on a hot day, rather than rushing around getting hotter.
Don't worry if your cat seems to be grooming itself more than usual. This is a cooling mechanism similar to sweating: as the saliva evaporates off its fur, the cat will cool down.
Pay attention to your cat's feet. Cats, like dogs and mice, have their sweat glands on their paws. If your cat is leaving wet paw prints, it is sweating and will need to replenish its fluids. You can also try cooling it down by dipping its paws in water, but this may not be appreciated.
Don't worry if your cat starts panting. Cats pant more rarely than dogs, but will pant to take on cooler air if they are particularly hot. Heavy panting may be cause for concern, at which point
you should contact your vet for advice.
Small, Furry Pets
Make sure all of your animals have cool and shady areas. Cats and dogs are able to move around and seek shade, but small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can’t move from their enclosures. Check and make sure that your animals are not in direct sunlight and that their enclosures are protected from the sun as the shade moves. Continue to move them into shady areas as the sun moves if necessary.
Don't keep the hutch on the ground: improve ventilation by elevating it on bricks or similar. Make sure that any platform it is on is stable and that the hutch cannot be tipped over.Brush out excessive fur. Extra fur will trap heat in and make your pet overheat a lot faster. If you have a long haired rabbit or guinea pig, consider cropping your pets coat short for the summer months.
Keep water topped up, and be extra-vigilant about evaporation. Adding crushed ice into their water can help keep it cool.
Give small animals pieces of water-rich fruit and vegetables, such as celery and apple, to keep them hydrated.
Mist your rabbit's ears. Rabbits dissipate heat through their ears and misting them will help keep your rabbit cool.
Fill 1 or 2 liter soft drink bottles with water and freeze them. Once frozen, put the frozen water bottle in your animals enclosure so they can lean against it to keep cool. Keep a few of these on hand in your freezer and rotate them throughout the day.
Heat stress, or heat prostration, is a serious problem during the summer months especially when cages or aviaries have inadequate ventilation or are in an enclosed building where the sun beats down on an unshaded roof all day. The combination of high heat and humidity are particularly dangerous.
For non-aviary birds the best way to avoid any heat stress is to bring them indoors to a cool area out of direct sunlight.
Birds have no sweat glands. They cool themselves by rapid breathing with their mouths open and by holding their wings out slightly from their bodies. The underneath of a bird’s wing has no feathers and the main wing artery is in that region. If a bird is running a fever or is suffering from heat stress, this area will feel very hot to the touch.
Additional signs of a bird suffering from heat stress include rapid vibrations of the muscles and bones under the throat which also helps to cool the bird and in parrots with severe stress, a goose-honking type sound.
If a bird is displaying the effects of heat stress, it needs to be immediately cooled down with a gentle spray of water or damping with a cool sponge under the wings, feet and beak. They should be taken immediately to an avian veterinarian. Keep the car cool with the air conditioner but ensure that the air doesn’t blow directly on to the bird.
In mild cases of stress or just to cool a bird down where misting hasn’t worked, take a clean sponge, dipping it into cool water and squeezing it onto the skin under each wing. Do this several times on each side and let the cool cloth sit there for a few minutes between fresh rinses. If the bird relaxes and begins to show signs of enjoying it, use the wet rag to dampen down their bottom half including his chest, feet and belly. Allow the bird to drip dry in a cool, well ventilated area. Air movement is important to allow the bird to continue to cool down but don’t let cold air blow directly on to them.
Here are our tips for keeping your bird cool
Most birds love being sprayed with a fine hand mister of cool water. Many will almost turn themselves inside out to try to soak up every last drop. It is quite spectacular to watch and very pleasing to see the birds perk up almost instantly.
For those with large aviaries, installing a misting hose to mist the entire area will have a massive cooling effect. These are available at hardware stores and are easily installed and attached to a garden tap. If they are put on a simple tap timer they can be programmed to come on periodically in the middle of the day for a few minutes at a time.
Alternatively, hose down the floors and walls of the area or put a small sprinkler just on the outside of the aviary. This can make a bit of a mess and some seed might sprout but the birds will love you for it and probably nibble on the new seedlings as well.
Another option is to hang hessian from the roof of the aviary to hand over the sides. These can be hosed down and will act like an air conditioner as the breeze blows through the damp fabric. However, be very careful that destructive birds such as parrots and galahs can’t reach the hessian and get themselves tangled in its threads.
Like all animals, birds require fresh water that is changed daily however on hot days the water can easily become warm. Birds just won’t drink warm water and will not be able to rehydrate themselves. Change the water a couple of times in the day so that it is always cool.
Birdbaths are an excellent option as long as the water is changed frequently. In aviaries, if electricity is available, the addition of a small circulatory fountain will help to keep the water fresh. In small bird cages, a shallow dish filled with just a couple of centimeters of cool water in the base will keep your bird happy for hours. There are even baths that attach to the door of bird cages that allow your bird to splash around without getting water everywhere. Warmer conditions create a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria. Clean and disinfect bird cages regularly.
Bringing a bird inside
Many bird owners will bring their birds inside on a hot day. Birds do very well indoors and will enjoy the company and cool environment but care should be taken when returning the bird to his outdoor area as sudden changes of temperature could cause a problem. Avoid sitting a bird cage next to a window or in direct sunlight as this will only make the heat from outside worse. If a bird is allowed to free range inside, ensure that the ceiling and floor fans are turned off.
Feeding birds in summer
Birds do not need as much energy in summer as they do in winter but in addition to their normal pellet or seed mixes, will enjoy greens and fruit which can be left for them in a shallow dish of water. Fresh food should not be left longer than an hour or two in a cage on hot days as bacteria will begin to grow quickly.
When we think of reptiles we automatically think that they need to be warm. The fact is, in the wild, reptiles tend to spend the hot part of the day in a burrow or a shaded spot and come out in the cool parts of the day to hunt. All animals are susceptible heat related stress, so in the warmer months we need to pay attention to how all of our pets are coping with the heat. For ectothermic pets like reptiles and amphibians this is especially critical. Ectotherms or so-called "cold-blooded" animals regulate their body temperature by using external sources, such as sunlight or a heated rock surface or shade.
The first thing is to make sure that any heat source like a globe or heat mat is connected and regulated by a thermostat. This is vitally important to make sure your reptiles does not overheat especially on hot days. Placing the thermometer inside the enclosure will give you a more accurate reading of the temperature your reptile is experiencing within their tank.
Make sure you keep terrariums away from windows and the sun and out of the warmest areas of your home.
The most effective way to keep reptiles cool is by having an air conditioner but this may not always be possible or practical. If you have a large or expensive reptile collection, an air conditioner is something you may want to consider investing in.
Monitor humidity levels with a hygrometer in the terrarium, and adjust the ventilation as necessary to maintain humidity (increasing ventilation or air flow results in lower humidity). If you live in a humid climate, you may need to increase ventilation. If you live in a very dry, hot climate you may need to decrease ventilation (cover some screened area with tape or plastic) and increase the misting of the tank. Adding an additional dish of water can help with humidity too.