SO many of us these days live in air-conditioned houses, work in air-conditioned workplaces and drive in air-conditioned cars, which makes it easy to forget that high summer temperatures can cause harm or death to our pets and other animals.
Animals left without adequate water and shelter, are exercised too hard in hot weather or are left in an environment that overheats (such as inside a car, plastic housing or metal cages) may suffer substantially or die if exposed for prolonged periods to hot temperatures.
Unlike humans, dogs may suffer in the heat because they can only cool their bodies by panting and experience only some mild sweating via the paws.
Many materials such as metal, rocks and cement radiate heat when exposed to hot temperatures for prolonged periods and can contribute to an animal’s heat stress.
Plastic containers for water or as housing soften in hot temperatures and can leak harmful chemicals into an animal’s water or air. Ceramic bowls are generally healthier and stay cooler longer. Wood stays more temperature neutral than metal or other materials and provides better shelter in summer for animals.
It is crucial that we don’t over-exercise animals when the temperatures exceed the mid-20C.
Many animals will know to use the hottest parts of the day to rest but dogs can be tricky to read in this respect, especially active breeds such as border collies or kelpies.
Be careful when exercising these breeds during the hotter season as they would rather die than to stop chasing a ball! Its always best to exercise a dog during the cooler parts of the day to avoid the risk of overheating.
If travelling with a dog, ensure that the car is parked under a tree or other sun shelter and always the windows open to provide air flow. Birds can also suffer greatly in high temperatures. They can be seen with open beaks, panting and their wings held away from the body to reduce their body temperature.
Again, providing shade in the form of trees, bushes or even just shade cloth can help. A bird bath or a shallow bowl with a rock placed in it to prevent smaller birds and reptiles from drowning may help save the life of our local wildlife.
We often think that animals such as sheep, horses and cattle do not mind the heat as much as we do because we see them often standing in bare paddocks. But the bottom line is that they also will seek the shelter of trees or a building if available.
If the temperatures are predicted to be high, it’s kind to move livestock into paddocks or yards with shade and where they have free and easy access to water.