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Caring for animals over summer

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Tuesday, 12 December 2023

The summer months are a welcome time for many Australians, but while we may look forward to the warmer days, our pets and native wildlife don’t always share our enthusiasm.

Being a conscientious animal carer means making sure our furred and feathered friends are safe, happy, and healthy as the seasons change. Here are some key tips on caring for animals in hot weather.

Walk your dog in the early morning or evening.

Avoiding the hottest part of the day will help reduce the risk of your dog overheating or developing heatstroke. Dogs who are overweight, elderly or a flat-faced breed (such as pugs and French bulldogs) are particularly susceptible, so remember to go slowly with them at their pace and be ready to head home if they show signs of struggling.

Sticking to the coolest parts of the day will also help prevent your pup from burning their sensitive paw pads on hot pavement. A good way to test for good walking conditions is the ‘five second rule’. Place the back of your hand on the ground for five seconds; if it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your dog.

Make sure to give access to plenty of shade and fresh water.

In the warmer weather, place a few extra water sources around in sturdy bowls that are hard to knock over for your pets or native wildlife that may wander into your yard seeking reprieve.

If you have the space, small pools to bathe in (such as plastic shell pools) are often welcome and a fun source of enrichment for your animal companions.

And, if you’re able on really hot and/or humid days, bring your pets inside where they can keep cool with air conditioning, fans, or open windows.

Keep your littlest pets in the shade or indoors at all times.

Because smaller companion critters like rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats and mice are often kept in cages or hutches, it can be harder for them so seek out cooler places for themselves. Bring them inside into a cool room as they may overheat, even in a shaded area in the backyard.

Recognising and safely rescuing heat-stressed wildlife.

Wildlife suffering from heat stress may appear disoriented, be unable to maintain their balance or even collapse in extreme weather conditions. Another sign of heat stress is normally nocturnal animals such as possums appearing during the day or normally flying birds staying close to the ground.

To safely help a wild animal experiencing heat stress, wrap them loosely in a towel, place them in a cardboard box and offer water to drink. Spraying with a fine mist of water can also help to cool the animal down. Leave in a dark, cool and quiet place and seek advice and assistance from your local wildlife rescue. Keep in mind that just being near them creates stress in wild animals, so it’s best not to approach unless necessary and to keep handling to an absolute minimum.

Lastly, NEVER leave your pet alone in your car or ute – even with the windows down and parked in the shade.

These precautions are not enough to stop your pet overheating. the temperature inside the car can climb to double the outside temperature in a short amount of time. Leaving an animal in a hot car can quickly be fatal, even on a milder day or if the car is parked in the shade. If you see a distressed animal alone in a car, please seek immediate assistance.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can be confident in seeing your loyal companions and local wildlife safely through the summer months.

This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers.

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