Be Sun Smart!

Slip on a shirt

Slop on some sunscreen

Slap on a hat

Wrap on some sunnies

It may have been a patchy January, but with temperatures expected to rise and stay there until the end of March we’ll be soaking up the sun for some time yet. When it comes to keeping our furry companions safe in the sun there are a few things we must remember. The Sun Smart Rules also apply to the fur-kids (with a little bit of a twist).

Slip your pet out of the car

Slop out some cool water

Slap up a sun shade

And if they get overheated

Wrap in a cool towel!


Recognising Heat Stress

It can become very uncomfortable when temperatures skyrocket, even for those of us not wearing fur coats! It’s important that we understand that our pets do not have the same self-cooling mechanisms as we do and are particularly susceptible to heat stress. Also, because it is harder for them to communicate, it is our responsibility to watch for the signs of overheating:

  • Behavioural changes – Dogs digging to find cool soil; Cats grooming excessively to cool themselves down
  • Dogs panting to lose heat through their respiratory system. They may salivate profusely; this happens especially in breeds with shortened noses (pug, bulldog, boxer) and can lead to dehydration or obstruction of their airway.
  • Breathing harder or heavier
  • Tiredness and being generally off-colour
  • Reddened gums
  • Being hot to the touch – although this may not be the case
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • In serious cases tremors, seizures or unconsciousness may occur

For animals already suffering chronic conditions including anxiety and heart failure, these signs can be similar to those they already experience. When in doubt, call your veterinarian.

Guinea pigs are also a special case. Their natural environment is a very cool one in the caves of South America. They have been known to suffer heat stress at temperatures as low as 24 degrees C, and are at high risk at 28 degrees C. The signs of heat stress in a guinea pig are very similar to a dog: salivation, rapid breathing, weakness, and tremors. 

Being Summer Safe

New Year’s Resolutions

When it comes to preventing heat stress in general, animals with a heavy fur coat or a few extra grams/pounds/kilos are more at risk. Summer is therefore a great time for a new haircut and a slimmer, healthier outlook on life. Ask at your veterinary clinic for weight loss tips and tricks. We have an excellent range of weight loss diets; some that Fluffy will actually enjoy eating!

Also, at Kew Vet and Cattery we are excited to welcome a new groomer. To showcase her skills we are running a promotion: Fur Free February! When you call to book in a grooming appointment with Tamara during the month of February, you will receive 20% off the price of your groom. To book now, call 03 9853 7125.

As well as getting a cool new ‘do, exercise is excellent for both us and our companions. Many of us become more active during summer. This is great for the physical and mental health of all! We must be aware though of how much we are raising our companion’s temperature during exercise, putting them at risk of heat stress. Take it easy during the hot part of the day and schedule your main exercise for the morning or later evening when the temperature is not as high.

Slip your pet out of the car

The first thing to remember this summer is to always take your pet out of your parked car. Even with a window open or the air conditioner on, for an animal with limited ability to self-cool the inside of a car can become deadly within minutes. If your furry companion needs to come with you for the day take an extra bottle of water and bowl and remember to remove them from the car whenever you park. Please, if you see anyone’s fur-kid (or kid!) in a locked car on a hot day, alert the RSPCA or police. The potential consequences are too serious to ignore.

Slop out some cool water

Because your companion cannot open the fridge when thirsty (or if they can, please let us know so we can post the video to Facebook) they need to have clean, fresh water available at all times of the day and night. For our more boisterous or clumsy companions it is a good idea to put out several deep bowls in case one is tipped over when you are not around.

To beat the heat, keep water bowls – especially metal – in the shade. Add ice cubes if you are heading out for the day; this will keep the water cool for longer. If your fur-kid does not enjoy drinking from a bowl with floating ice cubes, you can freeze half a bowl of water overnight and top it up in the morning for day-long freshness. For pocket pets a closed, frozen water bottle placed inside the hutch will cool small furry bodies down. As with other animals, provide lots of fresh, free-flowing water.

Slap up a sun shade

When you are leaving for the day, take a moment to think about where the shade will fall at different times of the day. Your outside companion will need decent shade to retreat to at all times and especially in the midday-early afternoon period. If your back garden does not provide this, consider erecting a sun shade or leaving your furry one indoors with the air conditioner on.

Please pay particular attention to where you place hutches during the day, as our guinea pigs and rabbits are very susceptible to heat stress. Monitor the temperature inside and around the hutch at your pocket pet’s level, and if in doubt consider an inside hutch.

Those critters with white ears and noses, or patches of short fur/ exposed skin will benefit from a pet sun screen, available from your veterinary clinic. Please ensure you use a pet formulation and apply liberally as you would your own sun screen.

Wrap in a cold towel

When heat stress occurs, our action must be immediate. The time between onset of signs of heat stress and onset of treatment has shown to be a huge factor in how often and how quickly the patient recovers. As little as 90 minutes between the beginning of heat stress and onset of treatment will decrease the chance of recovery significantly, so it is vital we take action as soon as we see any of the above signs of heat stress.

When to call the vet:

  • You are not sure how long your companion has been overheating.
  • Your pet is unresponsive, dull, or has vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Your pet has prior health concerns (heart condition, obesity).
  • Your pet is severely brachycephalic (pug, bulldog) and is salivating excessively.
  • Your guinea pig is showing any signs of heat stress.

During the journey to the vet, wrap your pet in a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water, and remove this when it is warm to the touch.

Where your companion is in the first stages of heat stress and does not need veterinary attention (please do not hesitate to call your clinic if you are unsure), you can take steps to cool them down at home.  Dogs may enjoy being hosed down or bathed with cool (not cold) water. Cold water is not advisable as your companion’s temperature may swing in the other direction, causing hypothermia. For those dogs (and cats) that would not enjoy being hosed wrap them in a cool towel, removing and replacing as necessary. Small animals, birds, and pocket pets may enjoy being sprayed with cool (not cold) water from a trigger spray bottle set on ‘mist’.

A cool fan can also help to relieve heat stress in most animals but must only be used when supervised. Happy tails, waving tongues, and spinning blades do not make the best of friends!

Summer is a wonderful opportunity to spend more time outdoors with your entire family, and we want you to make the most. It is our responsibility to ensure our furry friends are safe in the sun, and your veterinary team are here to help. No question is too small and no intervention is too soon.

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