RSPCA South Australia – A guide to protecting pets during extreme heat

South Australian summers can really heat up and when temperatures repeatedly roar into the 40s, it’s more important than ever to keep a watchful eye over all animals – their life can quite literally depend on it.

Keep animals cool this summer

Whether it’s Billy your beloved terrier, Snowy the loud-mouthed cockatiel or the beautiful native wildlife in your garden, giving animals the best chance of staying alive during the summer months is as simple as following a few easy steps.

Here are our recommendations for responsible pet owners and citizens to help keep all our furry friends – dogs, cats, pocket pets, wildlife and livestock – cool and safe this summer. 

Top tips for dogs

Keeping pup safe this summer is as easy as one, two, three. Our checklist for hound happiness during the heat is as follows:

Follow the 5-second rule for dog walking

Not sure whether it’s too hot to walk your dog? Just follow the 5-second rule. Simply place the back of your hand on the pavement for five seconds. If you can’t handle the heat, your dog can’t either. To avoid burning your pooch’s pads, try walking early in the morning before the pavement has heated up or late at night on a grassed area. Dogs travelling in the trays of utes and trucks are also susceptible to bad pad or body burns on hot days – avoid if you can.

Never leave canines in cars

Leaving dogs in hot cars for any period of time can be lethal. It can take only six minutes for a dog to overheat and die in a locked car. This is a year-round rule, as studies have shown that even in mild 22-degree heat, the inside temperature of cars can rise to 47 degrees. When heading out, just leave your pets at home. For more information, check out RSPCA’s Just 6 Minutes website.

Give outdoor woofers extra care

Bring dogs indoors if you can, to a cool spot beside the air conditioner or fan. If your dog must stay outdoors during the day, ensure they have easy access to plenty of shade, water and ventilation. Dogs pant to cool down and without adequate ventilation, they will become dehydrated and overheat, which can be fatal. If your pupper has skin sensitivities or white fur, they may also be at risk of sunburn, so keep them inside for the hottest part of the day if possible.

Top tips for cats

We may think cats are perpetually cool, calm and collected, but the heat can get them as frazzled as our hair. Keeping a watchful eye and offering some cooling options is key.

Consider offering ice cold water

While most outdoor cats have the freedom to find themselves a cool place to lounge during extreme heat, they are as prone to heatstroke and dehydration as we are. Dropping a few ice cubes into their water bowl will give them a refreshing kick to keep them hydrated and happy.

No air-conditioner? Try this instead

Freezing a bottle of water overnight, wrapping it in a towel and placing it in your kitties favourite spot will give them a cool resting place to  lounge away the day. But avoid frozen gel packs as the contents can be toxic should your cat decide they need a new kneading bag.

Keep kitties indoors

Staying inside is the best way to ensure your kitty is kept cool and safe during the summer season. Also try keeping playtime until after the sun goes down, to avoid any chance of your feline friend overheating.

Top tips for rabbits and guinea pigs

Often our little fluffy friends live outside in hutches – but it’s still simple to ensure they are kept out of the heat and out of danger. 

Offer a wet blanket air con

Wetting a tea towel or lightweight cloth with cool water and placing it over their hutch will really take the edge off the heat. But choose the cloth you use carefully, as some towels or rags are too heavy and will stifle the ventilation of the hutch, making the heat even worse for your furry critter. Ensure air can still enter and escape the hutch, allowing the wet cloth to act as an evaporative air conditioner.

Consider a day indoors

Bringing the hutch indoors to cool spot in your house, like the laundry, will guarantee your pocket pets won’t be endangered by the midday sun and will keep your mind at ease. If that’s not an option, definitely make sure the hutch is protected from direct sun and has shade for most of the day.

Freeze cooling blocks

Just like with cats, freezing a bottle of water overnight then wrapping it in a towel and placing it in your bunny or guinea pigs’ favourite spot will give them a cool resting place to  lounge away the day. Do avoid frozen gel packs, though, as the contents can be toxic if eaten.


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