Sunscreen, shade, and sunset walkies

VETS are advising owners to stick to “sunscreen, shade, and sunset walkies” during the heatwave.

Owners are advised not to take their dogs for a walk during the day.

Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat, and are vulnerable to over-heating.

Flat-faced breeds – such as English or French bulldogs and pugs – are at even greater risk because their short muzzles can make breathing difficult, and so they struggle to cool down through panting.

Overweight animals and densely coated animals are also at increased risk.

Rabbits and guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant, so owners must not expose their hutch or run to direct sunlight.

Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: “While most of us look forward to warmer weather, our pets can suffer in high temperatures and humid conditions.

“Each year, vets across the country report seeing large numbers of cases involving pets who require treatment for heat-related conditions, and this saw a noticeable jump during the record-breaking heat of 2018.

“Vets know that dogs in particular won’t stop enjoying themselves and exercising because it is hot, so it’s up to owners to do all they can to prevent overheating happening in this heatwave.

This includes making sure pets aren’t walked or exercised in the middle of a hot day or left inside a hot car or conservatory for even a little while, as ‘not long’ can prove fatal.

“If you’re concerned about your pet in the hot weather, we’d recommend contacting your vet immediately.”

Shotton added: “The best way to prevent sunburn is to avoid excessive sunlight exposure but, if that isn’t possible, you should apply pet-appropriate sunscreen 10-15 minutes before exposure.

“Products that are waterproof, with a high sun-protection factor (SPF) (30 or higher) and containing titanium dioxide are suitable and should be applied as a thin smear.”

Vets’ top tips

  • Make sure all pets always have access to fresh water to drink, adequate ventilation and shade from direct sunlight at all times. This includes birds in cages or aviaries and rabbits in hutches.
  • Provide extra shade to guinea pigs by covering the top of wire mesh runs with damp towels.
  • Don’t exercise dogs in the hottest parts of the day: especially older dogs, overweight dogs, flat-faced breeds or dogs that you know have heart or lung problems. Stick to early morning or late evening walks.
  • Do the five-second tarmac test before taking a dog out for a walk; if it feels too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
  • Never leave dogs in vehicles. If you see a dog in distress inside a hot car, call 999.
  • Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, drooling, restlessness, bright red or very pale gums, and lack of coordination. Signs of heatstroke in rabbits include drooling, salivating, lethargy, short and shallow breaths, red and warm ears, wet nose and seizures.
  • If heatstroke or any other heat-related condition is suspected, take your pets to a cool, well-ventilated place, give it small amounts of cool (not ice-cold) water to drink, and pour room-temperature water over it to cool it down. Seek immediate advice from your vet.
  • Spare a thought for wild animals. Keep out bowls of water for wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs.

Tips to help wildlife too

The Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has also issued advice for gardeners who want to help wildlife cope with the heatwave.

Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We hope our tips will give people lots of inspiration on how to make their garden a haven for wildlife this summer.

“We’d also like to remind the public that simply tidying away any football and badminton netting, fishing equipment, paddling pools and securing hot tubs could be the difference between life and death for some of Scotland’s wildlife.

“Our animal rescue officers regularly attend incidents of fledglings stuck in paddling pools or hot tubs and hedgehogs and fox cubs stuck in football netting.

“Please enjoy the summer months, but please also be vigilant so that visiting wildlife can too.

“If anyone finds an animal in distress, they should call our animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”

Tips offered by the charity as part of its “Take a walk on the wild side” partnership with housebuilder Cala Homes include:

  • All wildlife needs good hydration, particularly in the summer. Setting up a few watering holes will help keep them healthy.
  • Bees can drink their body weight in water every day, so create a bee bath to give them a safe place to quench their thirst. This should consist of a shallow dish filled with pebbles, stones, and water.
  • If you’ve got a bird bath, make sure it’s no more than two inches deep, this is the right height to allow smaller and larger birds to make good use of it.
  • Ponds are a brilliant habitat for amphibians and serve as a great place for bats to drink from.

Read more stories on Scottish Field’s news pages.

Plus, don’t miss an in-depth look at Shetland’s otters in the August issue of Scottish Field magazine.