With summer now upon us, the RSPCA is reminding people that our pets need to stay cool, hydrated and safe – just like us.

In hot weather, animals need constant access to both water and shade, as heat stress can develop extremely quickly as temperatures rise.

Of course, during a heat wave, it is best to allow your outdoor animals to come inside the house to share the air conditioning or fans. If that’s not possible, here are some ideas to help them chill out…

Dogs don’t sweat: Cooling occurs through panting (evaporative cooling from the lungs and mouth), lying on a cool surface and drinking cool water. Hot weather paired with high humidity are the most dangerous days for dogs as cooling through panting is not as efficient in these weather conditions. Always ensure that your pet’s water bowl is checked on a regular basis and they have access to clean, fresh water. If you are out, ensure that the bowl is big enough to hold enough water for the whole day. In case of a tip-over, leave two or three water bowls – just in case! You could also give them takeaway containers filled with beef or chicken stock which has been frozen overnight or pop in a few ice cubes to keep the water nice and cold.

Shade for the day: If your pet is in the backyard during the day, ensure they have plenty of access to shade – remember the sun moves throughout the day – so ensure your pet has shade from all aspects throughout the day. Pets can suffer heatstroke or even death in their own backyard on a hot summer’s day without shade or water. Dog houses do not provide adequate ventilation; your dog can end up being in a ‘hot box’, which can make matters even worse. Think about providing extra shade areas in your backyard using shade cloth or shade umbrellas.

Sleeping spots: Dogs and cats will normally find the coolest spot of the house or yard themselves, but place outside beds or mats in shady or cool spots. Try dampening your dog’s blankets or mats with water to create cool resting spots, or you can also buy cool mats and cool jackets specifically for dogs.

Bubble bath: When the heat soars, take the opportunity to give your pet a bath with lukewarm water. This will instantly cool them down and prevent any overheating. Spray your pet bird with a mist pump spray bottle (only if she likes it!) or install a birdbath.

Doggy paddle: Most dogs will enjoy playing in a paddle pool filled with water. If you have a backyard pool, ensure it is adequately fenced and your dog knows how to swim. Teach your dog to swim to a certain point at the edge of the pool where the stairs are. You can even get a doggy ladder to make the swimming experience easier for your pooch. Remember, though, that pets must be supervised around water at all times.

Pupsicles: Frozen treats in a treat dispenser or kong or even cupcake liners are a great way to cool down your dog and keep them occupied. Pet popsicles are a great treat and can be made out of all kinds of things your dog (or cats) eat normally, so experiment to see what they like best.

Walkies: It is essential that your dog gets a regular walk. However, always be mindful of the intensity of the summer heat and the terrible effects the heat can have on your dog. Remember, sunrise and sunset are the most ideal times for a walk. Try to walk on grass rather than hot concrete, as this can burn your pooch’s paw pads. Also ensure that you always carry a water bottle and a bowl to prevent you and your dog from getting dehydrated.

Slip Slop Slap: Dogs and cats with smooth/thin hair and white-coloured ears or noses can be more susceptible to skin cancers, so be mindful of this when the sun is out. To ensure that your dog doesn’t get sunburnt, keep your pet out of the sun in the hottest hours of the day and consider pet-suitable sunscreens.

Watch out: Heat stress can sometimes be more prevalent as a result of the animal’s physiological attributes. Squishy and flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds like bulldogs, pugs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and Pekinese, and cats such as Persian and Himalayans are far more susceptible to heat stress than other breeds.

Don’t forget the little ones: Pocket pets (mice, rats, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits), reptiles and birds are often confined to cages and hutches preventing them from moving to cooler areas once the temperature rises. In hot weather, these animals should be moved into cool, shady and well-ventilated areas with plenty of fresh, clean drinking water. Cool a ceramic tile or oven pan in the fridge or freezer, and put it out for your pocket pets, or they might also enjoy a little bag of ice wrapped in a small, wet towel.

Or our scaly friends: Did you know that in warm weather your fish can get hot too? Remember to watch your fish for signs of distress. This could be if they are gasping for breath or if they seem paler in colour. For tropical fish, anything over 30 degrees is too hot. You can cool your fish tank by having a fan blow across the surface. For goldfish, the water temperature shouldn’t be higher than about 28 degrees. If the fan option doesn’t cool the water temperature, you can freeze some water in a container or bag and place it in the tank or near the filter area. But remember to gradually change your water temperature so you don’t shock your fish.

Never leave your dog in the car: Dogs can die in as little as six minutes, as temperatures in a vehicle can rise to dangerous levels, even on mild days. Leaving the windows open, parking in the shade and tinting do not help to reduce the inside temperature significantly. More on this here: https://www.rspcatas.org.au/your-dog-can-die-in-just-6-minutes/

If you suspect your pet may be suffering heatstroke, contact your local vet immediately.

Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Mobile: 0409 004 228
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au