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How to protect animals during a heatwave

Words by Smiley Team

When temperatures reaching highs of 32C, there’s little respite for animals outside in the blazing sun. 

In fact, hot weather poses risks for pets and farm animals, as well as wildlife. RSPCA spokesperson and pet welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines says every year, the charity receives hundreds of reports of animals suffering from heat exposure, including dogs left in hot cars, pets with heat burns on their paws, dehydrated wild animals, grazing animals with no shade, and dogs over-exercised in the heat.

So, how can you protect animals?

Dogs and horses need exercise, says Dr Gaines, even when it’s hot – but you should avoid exercising them in excessively hot weather. “Walk or ride in the morning or evening when it’s cooler and remember; if the pavement is too hot to touch with your hand then it’s too hot for a dog’s paws,” she says.

If temperatures are set to soar in your region and you’re planning to spend time outdoors enjoying the sun, try to avoid the temptation to take your dog with you, she says. Spending prolonged periods of time in the sunshine without shade poses a really serious risk to your pet. It may be better to leave them at home for short periods.

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“Always ensure your pets or livestock have access to fresh drinking water and shady areas, and avoid transportation during hot weather,” says Dr Gaines. “Ensure buildings housing animals are adequately ventilated and regularly monitored. Never leave pets in vehicles, caravans, conservatories or outbuildings in the warm weather; they can overheat and die if left in a hot environment, such as a car."

Here are 16 tips to looking after pets and animals during a heatwave:

:: Have a go at making some frozen dog treats to keep your pooch cool;

:: Watch RSPCA's video on how to keep cats cool in hot weather;

:: Don’t let your pet get sunburnt - use pet-safe sun cream;

:: Ensure animals have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times. For animals that are kept outside, remember that as the sun moves during the day so too does the shade. Somewhere that was shaded in the morning could be in full sun by the afternoon;

:: Keep guinea pigs cool and hydrated by making them a fresh vegetable treat;

:: Check small animals, poultry and other pets twice a day for flystrike;

:: Keep fish tanks out of direct sunlight and top up water levels of ponds;

:: Keep an eye out for wildlife when using lawnmowers or strimmers;

:: Keep pesticides out of reach of animals;

:: For horses stabled during the day out of the heat, try making them our horse and pony boredom buster treat;

:: Wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel, or use damp towels for your pet to lie on;

:: Those with pet chickens can encourage them to stay in shaded areas by hanging up a homemade vegetable garland for chickens;

:: Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly for your dog from pet-friendly ingredients;

:: Freeze your dog’s water bowl or kong, or add ice cubes to your pet’s bowl;

:: Fill a paddling pool or spray a hose for your dog to play in but always supervise them around water;

:: Leave a bowl of fresh drinking water in your garden for birds and other wildlife.

Read more resources and information on protecting animals on the RSPCA website

Image credit: Finch Focus / Shutterstock

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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