Careful planning will help your furry friends navigate the long, hot summer but there is more to consider than providing adequate shade and water.
The Causeway Veterinary Clinic’s Anna Richards said protecting animals from parasites, keeping a watchful eye for snakes and maintaining an exercise routine, despite the heat, were also important.
“Pets require access to clean and adequate water sources all year round, but particularly during summer and the warmer months,” Dr Richards said.
“Supplying multiple water points reduces the risk of our pet being accidentally left without drinking water. Accidents happen and even the largest water bowl or bucket can be tipped over.
“At least one water bowl should be kept under cover to minimise the risk of it overheating, and while automatic water devices are a great idea for providing fresh, cool water they are not fail-safe; so a backup water supply should always be provided.''
Fish ponds and swimming pools are not adequate water supplies as they contain chemicals and can be great environments for bacteria and parasites, potentially leading to gastrointestinal issues.
Protection from the harsh sun, which may come in the form of shade from trees, a verandah or fernery in the backyard, will help your pet cope, as will a “doggy” swimming pool filled with clean water.
There are a range of commercially-produced items specifically designed to keep our pets cool, including cooling jackets and vests and for a DIY alternative — frozen water bottles and ice blocks — can also aid in cooling.
During extreme weather episodes keep your pet inside under a fan or airconditioning. If this is not possible, relocation to a friend or family member’s house may be an option.
“Certain animals, for example the brachycephalic dog breeds (French bulldog, British bulldog etc) struggle in the heat and are more likely to overheat therefore requiring airconditioning on a regular basis,” Dr Richards said.
Flea numbers can multiply quickly in the heat, and while it’s recommended to keep pets on a good quality flea prevention product year-round, it’s particularly important during the summer months.
“The intermediate host for the tapeworm is the flea and so regular intestinal worming is also recommended,” Dr Richards said.
“While this area is not considered a tick area, during summer we often travel. Coastal areas can be tick hot-spots (for example coastal NSW) and for this reason you may need to consider putting your pet on tick prevention before heading off on holidays.”
Products to repel flies and mosquitoes, which can cause irritation to pets, can be helpful along with heartworm preventatives, but these should only be used after seeking professional advice from the vet.
Dr Richards said for many years heartworm was only considered a northern Australia parasite, however positive cases had been found in the Goulburn Valley.
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes so the risk of contracting heartworm increases during the warmer months when mosquitoes are more active. Infection can be life-threatening, and risky and expensive to treat.
“To select the best and most suitable product for your pet we recommend you seek professional advice from a veterinarian. Some preventative products can have potential risks associated with them, particularly if the heartworm status of your dog is unknown,” Dr Richards said.
Heatstroke can impact pets, and surprisingly it’s not usually during extreme weather episodes but rather earlier in the season.
“Just like us it takes our pets time to adjust to the warmer weather, so provisions should be made to help our pets cope with the first hot days we have in spring/summer,” Dr Richards said.
The other potential health issue is snake bite, a reality of living in a rural environment.
“Symptoms of snake bite are variable and dependent on the type of snake, species of animal bitten, amount of venom and the time between envenomation and presentation,” Dr Richards said.
“A pet that has been bitten by a snake may salivate, vomit, stagger, appear blind (due to dilation of the pupils), urinate blood and or appear extremely lethargic. If a pet owner suspects their dog or cat has been bitten, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.”
The ideal time to exercise your pet is in the cool of the morning, and even though the evening might seem a viable alternative it should be remembered that your pet may still be recovering from heat exposure during the day.
“What may seem like a brisk walk for you could be like running a marathon in 40 degree heat for your dog and so care should be taken even during milder summer conditions,” Dr Richards said.
“Our pets often don't have the luxury of sitting down and recovering in airconditioned comfort and so special consideration needs to be made in light of this.”
Concrete, bitumen and artificial turf can get extremely hot so special care should be taken to avoid your pet burning their feet on these surfaces.
Lastly, some dogs and cats require the regular use of sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin but care needs to be taken, particularly when applying near the eyes or if the animal has any additional skin issues.
Only animal-friendly sunscreens should be used as human preparations often irritate our furry friends.