The RSPCA is urging animal lovers to protect pets and help wildlife during this week’s hot weather as the charity reports a massive surge in those seeking heatwave advice for their pets.
As temperatures look set to top 25°C (77°F) in many parts of the country this week despite autumn approaching, the RSPCA has already seen a 77% rise in people visiting its advice pages about how dogs can die on hot walks.
Users of the charity’s website searching for advice have surged from 46,431 people from January to August this year, compared to 26,143 for the same period in 2022.
Visitors to the charity’s other online hot weather advice pages have also seen a rise, as more people sought information about heatstroke in dogs (up 11%) and not leaving dogs to die in hot cars (up 2.3%).
But amid fears that some pet owners may still be caught unprepared by this sudden heatwave, the RSPCA has renewed its plea for animal lovers to take heed of its tips on how to protect animals in hot weather, preventing animals from suffering or even death.
The urgent advice comes as the Met Office reported that many places in England and Wales could expect to see maximum temperatures rise to 25°C or above for several days this week, which would bring some locations ‘into the realm of heatwave conditions’.
During every period of hot weather, the RSPCA receives hundreds of reports of animals at risk from heat exposure, including dogs left in hot cars, pets with heat burns on their paws from pavements, dehydrated wild animals after water supplies have dried up, grazing animals left with no shade, and dogs over-exercised in the heat.
The charity is asking owners of all pets – from cats and dogs to small furries, horses and farm animals – to be prepared, and is also calling on people to help look out for wildlife in the hot weather.
Every year, the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups issue a stark and serious warning to dog owners never to leave a dog in a hot car, and to call 999 immediately if they see a dog in distress in a hot car. The coalition group also highlights the health risks of walking dogs during hotter weather, including sunstroke and overheating, as well as pets burning their pads on scorching pavements.
Esme Wheeler, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said that it is vital pet owners are not caught unprepared by this week’s unexpected heatwave and to make sure they do everything they can to keep pets and wildlife safe during hot weather.
She said: “Hot weather can be a secret killer for animals, with sunstroke, overheating, burnt pads from hot pavement and dehydration causing major problems.
“While many of us will be enjoying this week’s sudden hotter temperatures, it could be a killer heatwave for the nation’s beloved animals without our help and preparedness.
“So while it is positive we’ve seen a massive surge in animal lovers seeking information about protecting pets in hot weather, we are still concerned that some people may be caught unprepared.
“By following our top tips for keeping pets cools, as well as familiarising themselves with the signs of heatstroke in pets, owners will be taking responsible steps to keeping their animals safe this week. With just a few simple tweaks to their routine, animal lovers can really make a huge difference to pets’ comfort during the hot weather, and in some cases, may well be saving their lives.”
She added that dog owners should be particularly aware of the dangers of walking their pets during high temperatures.
“While the majority of us would never leave our dogs in a car on a hot day, or even take our dogs for a really long walk in the heat, many people may still be putting their dogs at risk even on a short walk, or by taking them to places such as fields and beaches with little or no shade, but the truth is, walking dogs in hot weather can be a silent killer,” she said.
“We have long-campaigned about the risk of dogs dying in hot cars, but this year we’re highlighting that dogs die on hot walks, too. The message remains very simple – never leave a dog in a hot car because ‘not long’ is too long, and when it comes to walks, ‘if in doubt, don’t go out’. Sharing this message this week could help save a dog’s life.”
Top tips for pet owners in hot weather
Never leave your dog in a vehicle. Dogs die in hot cars. Call 999 in an emergency if you see a dog in a hot car.
All dogs need extra care during summer.
Exercise dogs in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler – but don’t be afraid to skip a walk altogether if it’s too hot. Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out.
Keep a close eye on older dogs, those with thicker coats or flat faces, and those with existing health conditions.
Remember, pavements can get very hot in the warm weather – if you can’t comfortably keep your hand on the ground for five seconds then it’s too hot for your pooch’s paws too! Sadly, we have been called in the past about dogs with burned pads.
Have a go at making some frozen dog treats to keep your pooch cool.
Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly for your dog from pet-friendly ingredients.
Freeze your dog’s water bowl or kong, or add ice cubes to your pet’s bowl.
Fill a paddling pool or spray a hose for your dog to play in but always supervise them around water.
Wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel, or use damp towels for your pet to lie on.
Be aware of the signs of heat-related illness in dogs so you can take action and seek urgent veterinary care as soon as possible if necessary – excessive panting or unusual breathing noise, change in behaviour and lethargy, stumbling, any blue/grey tinge to gums or tongue.
Cats, small furries, fish & pet chickens
Watch the RSPCA’s video on how to keep cats cool in hot weather.
Pop a cool damp towel down in case your cat finds this comfortable to rest on.
Don’t let your pet get sunburnt – use pet-safe sun cream on ears and other exposed areas if necessary.
Check small animals, poultry and other pets twice a day for flystrike.
Keep guinea pigs cool and hydrated by making them a fresh vegetable treat.
Ensure rabbits and guinea pigs have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times, and remember that as the sun moves during the day so too does the shade. Somewhere that was shaded in the morning could be in full sun by the afternoon.
Freeze a semi-full plastic bottle of water and wrap it in a towel so your pets can lie against it.
Those with pet chickens can encourage them to stay in shaded areas by hanging up a homemade vegetable garland for chickens.
Keep fish tanks out of direct sunlight.
Horses and farm animals
Check water troughs are working properly and clean out any algae or debris.
For horses stabled during the day out of the heat, try making them our horse and pony boredom buster treat.
A non-toxic fly repellent spray and a fly mask can help keep horses protected from bugs.
Plan exercising and travelling horses at either end of the day when temperatures are lower.
Use pet-safe sunscreen on horses’ muzzles if necessary.
Know the signs of dehydration in horses so you can contact a vet if needed.
Make sure pet pigs have plenty of wet mud to wallow in as well as shade.
Leave a bowl of fresh drinking water in your garden for birds and other wildlife.
Top up water levels of ponds.
Keep an eye out for wildlife when using lawnmowers or strimmers.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Parking Association, British Veterinary Association (BVA), The Kennel Club, The Mayhew Animal Home, National Animal Welfare Trust, The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), PDSA, RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, #TeamOtisUK, Woodgreen Pets Charity and RVC VetCompass have teamed up to spread the message: Dogs Die in Hot Cars and Dogs Die On Hot Walks.