In the midst of one of the worst droughts and heat waves to ever hit South Africa, the Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) urges pet owners to spare a thought for their furry friends who are most likely also struggling through the high temperatures. Here are 8 tips to help them cope:
Access to water Clean, fresh and cool water is essential for all living animals. Sufficient amounts should be available at all times and should be left in the shade, out of the harsh rays of the sun that accelerate evaporation (remember, every effort should be made to conserve water as well). Increase the number of available bowls according to the number of pets you have and provide containers that suit your pets’ behaviourial habits – if they’re inclined to play in their water bowls opt for sturdier options that cannot be knocked over. If you’ll be away from the home for a long period ensure the supply is sufficient to last the entire time. Ice cubes can also be supplied to cool and hydrate your pets.
Access to shade Shade is very important, so that your pets can escape unforgiving UV rays. Consider the type of shade available as a dog house sitting in direct sunlight may very well provide shade from the sun, but can in fact create a sauna-type effect inside it due to poor ventilation. It is a far better option to move dog houses under a shady and sheltered area.
No parked cars If travelling with a pet in the heat ensure that the area they are seated in is adequately cooled and ventilated. Stop often to let them stretch their legs and drink water and never leave them inside a parked car – even with windows slightly opened the temperatures inside a parked car can soar to dangerous levels.
Limit exercise Opt for exercising in the early morning or late evenings, adjusting the duration and intensity. Carry water with you to ensure your pets remain hydrated at all times and avoid hot surfaces that can burn the underside of your pets’ paws.
Actively cool your pet If you notice that your pet is suffering from extreme heat move them to the shade or allow them access indoors and cool them down by applying cooled towels or ice packs to their head, neck, chest and belly. Be aware of warning signs of overheating, such as heavy panting, glazed or bloodshot eyes, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, fever, dizziness, restlessness, excessive thirst or profuse salivation. Seek veterinary advice if you are at all concerned.
Be innovative While remaining considerate of the dangerously low levels of water available, use the heat to show your creativity. Wet towels laid in the shade as a bed or a fan placed in front of a bowl of ice are very effective, while homemade pet-friendly ice lollies can also assist in cooling your pet from the inside.
Be forgiving Your pets may take it upon themselves to find a cool spot to rest, which often means holes dug in the garden. While you definitely don’t want new habits forming, be more forgiving of this type of behavior and instead of punishing them, give them other options to utilize, and reward them for coping with the heat in the way you prefer.
Don’t get scissor happy Although it is tempting to give your pets a haircut in the warmer months some experts advise that you may be removing their natural temperature regulator. Not only does their fur protect them from sun burn, insect bites and dehydration, the different layers also play a role in keeping them warm in the cold and cooling them down in the heat.