Pets are more sensitive than humans to temperature variations. During periods of intense heat, the emergency veterinary services are overwhelmed and all too often arrive too late to help.. Even a perfectly healthy animal can die within hours.
New types of pets, such as rabbits, are amongst the most vulnerable.
In addition to emergencies, it is not uncommon for veterinarians to treat dogs and cats suffering from skin problems caused by the sun.
In fact, even if the sun is obscured by clouds, animals are not sheltered from the harmful effects of the sun. They too can be affected by sunburn and develop skin problems and even suffer from cancers. Like humans, they must be protected from the sun during the hottest times of the day (12am-4pm). Animals must be provided with a shaded area where they can escape from the sun.
Caution is advised, especially for dogs accompanying their owners on the beach, sailing in a boat or being carried in the basket of a bicycle.
Dogs and cats with white hair, those with sensitive skin and those with areas of depigmentation on certain parts of their bodies, are more sensitive to the sun’s rays than others.
Specially adapted sunscreens are available. Ask your vet for advice and trust in his expertise.
Do not hesitate to ask your vet for advice in the event of any skin abnormality, even a simple localised red area.
Heat stroke in an animal can be identified by the following symptoms: hyperventilation, wandering gait, stare, signs of stress or increase in temperature. As with humans, emergency veterinary assistance should be called and the animal kept cool as the situation can quickly deteriorate.
In the event of high temperatures, it is advisable to modify regular habits such as reducing essential trips outside and rescheduling walks and time outdoors to the early morning or late evening. It is also recommended to thin out the volume of the fur but it should not be shaved as this can result in sunburn.
For longer outings, it is best to follow a shady path and to have a spray or a bottle of water in order to hydrate the animal.
During periods of intense heat, it is a good idea to soak the animal’s pads in water, as both pavements and sand are very hot and can result in shallow or deeper burns. It is best to walk on grass whenever possible.
You can also freshen up your pet with a cool shower of short duration, ensuring that the water is not too cold to prevent thermal shock. For a cat, a wet towel is the best solution.
Leave your pet in the coolest room in the house and preferably one with a tiled floor. If you go out, leave one or two bowls of water. Better to leave your pet alone at home than in a hot car even if the window is open, even if the sun is obscured by clouds, and even if the vehicle is parked in the shade.
Concerning food requirements, chose wet foods (pouch or tin which contain a lot of water) rather than “croquettes”, especially for cats who are renowned for drinking only small amounts.