Popsicles and Wet Towels: How to Protect Your Pets in a Heat Wave

As unsuited as our homes, offices and trains are to the heatwaves currently scorching Europe, most people are now clear about public health messaging.

Drinking water and limiting time at high temperatures top the list. But as a society of animal lovers, what can we do to care for the animals in our lives? Just like us, dogs, cats and other beloved creatures can suffer from heatstroke, so hydration and shade are essential.

Since being outdoors is so uncomfortable, you may also need to adjust your usual habits, including walks. “You don’t have to walk your dogs in this heat,” Battersea Dogs and Cats Home welfare manager Rebecca Verne said yesterday. “It’s really not worth the risk to take them outside.”

Still, blistering heat doesn’t mean your pets need to be locked up either; there are plenty of ways to get creative while staying cool – as some of these great tips show.

Prepare delicious cold treats

Just as iced coffees and cucumber drinks are in high demand among hot humans, you can easily meet the needs of your pets too. The ice cubes in the bowl of water are a refreshing place to start.

Dog owner and journalist Marthe de Ferrer suggests freezing yogurt in ice cubes and adding it to their food in the morning. Filling a kong (hollow dog toy) and “licking mat” with wet dog food and freezing it has also been a treat for his pair.

Frozen snacks aren’t just for dogs, either. Battersea has a simple recipe for cat-friendly popsicles.

Walk the dogs in the morning (if applicable)

It is commonly accepted that dogs need a walk at least once a day. But while exercise is of course essential to their health and well-being, priorities must change in extreme heat.

Many more dogs develop heat stroke on hot walks than when you’re stuck in hot cars, so walking at cooler times of the day is recommended – ideally in shady areas with access to ponds or streams. Early morning walks are best as temperatures are cooler than in the evening.

If you’re not sure, touch the pavement with your hand: if it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your pooch’s paws.

“It’s really about mental stimulation rather than physical exercise when it’s so hot,” the Battersea wellness manager added.

Basic training exercises like sniffing games (hiding treats around the house) and scatter feeding can keep your dogs busy, says Marthe. Although she advises against trying to teach dogs new tricks when they are about to overheat. Who among us would want to do an advanced sudoku puzzle at +35C?

Keep your pets cool at home

The first stop for animals in cages or hutches is, of course, to get them out of the sun.

Also, keep an eye on your cats, who tend to wander into tight situations, like an open greenhouse, shelter, or cool spot under a car. (Car owners should take note of this).

“People always think of cats basking in the sun and enjoying the heat, but they can also struggle to cope with the temperatures,” says Bridie Williams, rehousing and welfare manager at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home .

“If they start showing things like fidgeting a bit, lying flat, breathing fast […]It’s important to call your vet.”

Dogs don’t always know what’s best for them either, so be sure to move a sunbathing dog to the shade. Not only are they at risk for heatstroke, but dogs—even long-haired ones, and especially those with white fur—are susceptible to sunburn. Dog sunscreen is available at stores like Pets at Home.

There’s also an array of things you can do to keep them cool indoors. Cooling jackets, wet towels and cold mats can all be used as combinations. And most humans and dogs agree that cold showers are a godsend.

Don’t forget the wildlife during the heatwave

Pets aren’t the only animals that need a helping hand during a heat wave in our increasingly less temperate part of the world.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society urges people to leave shallow water bowls for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Thinking of even smaller creatures, they suggest adding a few pebbles to ensure insects can also escape.

“If you are able,” tweets the RSPB, “you can help wildlife at home during a heat wave by providing water, feeding birds a little food, often and keeping feeders clean, and creating shady spots in your outdoor space.”

A birdbath is the easiest way to hydrate birds, he adds. The best ones are located in safe spaces, are at least 30cm in diameter, have sloping sides and use a rock or two for the birds to perch on. Be sure to keep it clean and change the water daily, and the songbirds will thank you for your service.

Watch the video above for more tips on keeping your pets happy in the heat.

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