Here comes the sun: Top tips to help pets chill out

Summer’s here and the temperature is rising, which means we’ll all be eager to enjoy some time outdoors with our pets, but sometimes our furry friends need a little help to stay cool.

Dr Samantha Butler-Davies, Veterinary Clinical Services Manager at Vets4Pets, said: “Pets love to have fun in the sun, but when the temperature gets too high, it’s time to chill out.

“Dogs, for example, don’t sweat like we do, they cool themselves down by panting. But on really hot days, panting isn’t as effective and they need some help to cool down.

“If pets get too hot, they could suffer heatstroke, which can permanently damage their health. But there are simple steps you can take to keep your dogs, cats and small furries cool, comfortable and safe when the weather warms up.”

With hot weather on the way, experts from Vets4Pets and Pets at Home have shared their best advice to help keep your four-legged friends happy, healthy and safe in the sun:

Only walk when it’s cooler outside

 Remember, if you find it hot outside, it’s too warm for your pooch! On particularly hot days, only walk in the early morning or late evening and don’t be afraid to skip the stroll for some indoor fun.

There are lots of ways to entertain your pet at home such as interactive games and puzzles that stimulate them physically and mentally.

You could also try your hand at indoor dog training, with lots of advice on shaking paws and rolling over available here on Pet Talk.

Keep them hydrated

It’s important to make sure your pet’s water bowls or bottles are always topped up with fresh, clean water.

Just like us, pets drink more when it’s hot to help cool themselves down, so take along some fresh drinking water for them if you head out for a walk too.

But gulping down too much water at once can be dangerous for dogs. While a full bowl shouldn’t cause a problem, keep an eye on them if playing in a pool, river, or stream and move them on if you think they’ve had their fill.

Many dogs also love munching on ice cubes and they are great for keeping pets hydrated so try popping one in their water bowl if it gets really hot. Always make sure the ice-cube is an appropriate size for the size of your dog and supervise them while they’re enjoying their treat.

You could also consider freezing one of their favourite treats inside a Kong toy which will keep them entertained for a good amount of time too.

Bring the shade

When the sun’s out, it’s important pets have a shaded and well-ventilated area where they can escape from the heat.

A shady grass patch makes a good spot for pets to cool down, but remember to look for natural grass as the artificial type can heat up rapidly in hot weather.

If you’re going out for the day, consider bringing a windbreak or pop-up tent so they have somewhere to lie down out of direct sunshine and take plenty of fresh water with you for your four-legged friend. On really hot days, it may be best to leave your pooch at home with a registered dog carer, friend or family member that they know.

For small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs, make sure their house is not in direct sunlight and that it is well ventilated. It’s best to use parasols, gazebos or trees for shade and move their houses away from buildings as these can radiate heat.

Look after their paws

Surfaces like concrete, sand and asphalt can absorb a lot of heat on sunny days and can easily burn your pet’s paws, causing blistering and pain.

You should check the surface temperature with the back of your hand before letting them wander around, and on really hot days it’s best to stick to grass or shaded areas where it’s much cooler.

Grass has cooling properties that mean it will always feel slightly cooler, whether it’s in the sun or shade.

Don’t forget pet-friendly sun cream

Dogs and cats can get sunburn, just like we can, especially on vulnerable areas like their nose and the tips of their ears, or if they have pale fur.

If your pet is going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, it’s a good idea to apply some pet friendly sun cream to help protect their skin.

Remember, you should only use a specialist sun cream product that has been designed for your pet.

Provide a cooling mat

Hot nights can make it hard to sleep, but a gel-filled cooling mat can make your pet’s life a lot more comfortable.

It’ll keep their bed cool when they’re trying to rest and is great for taking out on hot days too, preventing overheating and offering some soothing relief from the warm weather.

You can help smaller pets chill out by putting a cooling mat in their hutch or cage, or use a cold tile or a slate with no sharp edges to give them somewhere cool to lay down.

Keep up regular grooming

Long haired dogs can get very hot walking around in the sun because of their thick, fluffy fur.

To make sure your dog stays as cool as possible, you should brush them regularly to get rid of excess shed hair.

Depending on their breed, you may also want to consider having them trimmed at a professional grooming salon, like The Groom Room at Pets at Home, so their coat is short but neat for the summer months.

Never leave them alone in a hot car

This is a no-no at any time of the year, but especially so in the summer when the heat of the sun intensifies as it shines through your car windows. Even if parked in the shade or with a window open, you should never leave pets alone in a hot car.

On a day where it’s 22 degrees Celcius outside, the interior of a car can rapidly reach as high as 47. Confined to an increasingly hot space like this, dogs will quickly overheat, even within a few minutes.

This is also true for conservatories so be sure your pets have a shaded and ventilated area elsewhere in the home where they can stay cool.

For more information on how to look after pets in warm weather, pet owners can speak to pet care advisors in their local Pets at Home store and find more guidance here.