Hot weather guide: Caring for your pets during summer

Summer is a great time of the year. From barbecues to trips to the beach, we’re able to spend much more time outdoors catching rays and generally enjoying a bit of warm weather.

In the UK, we always seem to be surprised when we get a spell of hot weather. We don’t tend to have air conditioning in our homes or pools to cool down in, so escaping from the heat can be difficult. It can be just as hard – if not harder – for our pets, who are at risk of heat stroke and a number of other issues caused by increased temperatures.

Thankfully, there are plenty of things we can do to make sure our dogs and cats are as comfortable as possible throughout the summer. If you have a small pet, like a rabbit or guinea pig, you can find some helpful advice here.

At home

Hot weather can pose a number of problems for our pets. Just think how you’d feel if you were wearing a heavy fur coat during soaring temperatures!

There are plenty of ways you can help your pets cool while they’re at home. Providing fresh, cold water is one of the best things you can do for your cat or dog. Replenish it regularly so they always have a bowl full of clean water to lap up.

Dogs in particular are also fans of cold snacks – think carrots and apples straight from the fridge! While frozen food isn’t advised, safely putting an ice cube or two in your cat or dog’s water can really help them cool down. 

Make sure your cat and dog has access to a well shaded area so they can escape from the sun if they need to. Pop a damp towel on tiled flooring or in the shade outside to give them a great place to lie down and chill out – literally! 

Keep your cat or dog well groomed throughout the summer, especially if they have long hair. While it won’t always be possible to cut your cat or dog’s hair yourself, you may be able to enlist the services of a professional groomer for a summer trim. Brushing their hair daily will also help. 

Out and about

If your cat spends a lot of time outside, chances are they have a good idea about how to look after themselves. Still, you can do some simple things to give them a helping hand if they need it. 

Place a water bowl in a shaded area of your garden or by a door or window that they can easily access. That way, they have a reliable water source should they need it. Be sure to top it up regularly. Where possible, make sure your cat flap or home is accessible so your cat can get inside and into a cooler atmosphere easily if they need to. Try to keep your cat inside during the hottest part of the day if you can. If you’re finding it difficult to make sure they’re only outside early in the morning and later in the evening, find some pet-safe sun cream to keep their skin protected. 

Your pet is likely to be in your home unless they’re out and about with you, so it’s a bit easier to ensure they’re keeping cool and avoiding overheating. Never leave a dog or cat in a hot car, outbuilding, conservatory or caravan – even if it’s for a short period of time. Temperatures can rise very quickly and cause organ failure and death. 

Being out in the heat can be uncomfortable, and for dogs it can be even worse – they can overheat in strong sun and the hot pavements can be especially dangerous for their paws. It’s really painful for dogs to walk on hot surfaces, just like it is for us – imagine walking for half an hour, barefoot on burning sand. 

The best thing to do is avoid taking your dog out between 11am-3pm on hot days, and checking that the pavements are cool before letting your dog go outside. Their precious pads need all the protection they can get! 

Signs of overheating

You can do as much as you can to keep your pet safe and well in the summer, but it’s also important to know what the signs of overheating are, just in case.

Common signs in cats include:

  • Wobbling 
  • Struggling to stand up
  • Dribbling
  • Panting
  • Difficulty breathing, especially flat faced cats

If your cat is old or overweight, keep an extra eye on their behaviour when it’s warm and take additional precautions to help them cope with the heat – whether it be keeping them indoors all summer, meshing over windows so they can enjoy a refreshing breeze without risk of going outside, or giving them a summer haircut.

In dogs, signs of overheating include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Red gums
  • Difficulty standing up
  • Wobbling

Large dogs, dogs with flat faces, overweight dogs and old dogs will all find it that much harder to handle the heat so as with cats, take extra precautions to keep your dog safe.

By making necessary adjustments to your home or your pet’s routine, you can ensure they enjoy all the perks of summer without the discomfort.

Neil’s top tips:

  • Exercise helps dogs stay happy and healthy, so adapt their routine on hot days to make sure they’re staying active and safe. Keep walks short and under shade if possible, and consider splitting a long walk into two shorter ones – a walk early in the morning and one in the evening.
  • Put a shallow paddling pool in your garden to give your pets a fun way to cool off their paws!
  • Keep a fan on in a designated ‘cool’ area for your cat or dog to enjoy.