Summer is here! Be prepared with top tips from Dr Simone Maher, AWL NSW Chief Veterinarian.

“I have a mantra that I repeat to myself every year in the aftermath of Christmas. “Start preparing for Christmas in September – because once you’re in the ‘bers, Christmas will be here before you know it”. This year I even enlisted colleagues to send me memes and messages to keep me on track. But wouldn’t you know it, it’s happened again.

So if you’re anything like me, it may be that summer has come as something of a surprise. Again. To make sure you’re prepared in terms of caring for your non-human family members, here are some tips to help you through the hot days and holiday period.

Brachycephalic breed dogs are increasingly popular. If you have a pooch with a flat profile (think French bulldogs and pugs), you really need to make sure you are equipped to protect them from the heat. These little fellas have decreased ability to cool themselves through panting and overheat rapidly, particularly in humid conditions (even if the day isn’t that hot). Walk these pups only in the cool of the morning and evening and ideally use a harness rather than neck collar if they pull on-leash (even better, start some loose-leash training!). Ideally keep them indoors in air conditioning when the mercury is set to soar (why not see if your workplace will allow your well-behaved dog to accompany you to work? Many studies have shown the beneficial impact this can have on mental health and wellbeing…). If your dog is outdoors, provide multiple water sources, a shaded area and even frozen treats that can be licked or lain on (ice cream containers are the perfect receptacle!).

If you suspect your dog is suffering heat stress, immediate action is necessary as this can be fatal. Running cold tap water over them and wrapping in cold wet towels en route to the vet can be the first aid that saves their life. Once at the clinic, your vet will likely need to start intravenous fluids and possibly even anaesthetise your dog to maintain breathing and oxygenation.

Remember most of our pets are at risk of heat stress, not just short-nosed dogs. Old and very young cats and dogs need extra care. Rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds can suffer sudden death if the temperature spikes and they have been left out in the sun without anywhere to escape the heat. Make sure you move these little critters inside. Ice packs can be placed in with pocket pets and aviaries can be misted with water to keep the temperature down.

If you’re heading away over Christmas, make sure you’ve booked well ahead for “vacation care” (pet boarding) including ensuring vaccinations are up to date. These take about 2 weeks to be fully effective so a minimum of a fortnight before is recommended. For cats in particular, finding someone to mind them in their own home is ideal if you can manage it – cats, on the whole, are not at all fond of change and disruption.

If you’re intending on taking your pets with you on holiday, make sure you investigate the local health risks. Tick prevention is essential in many coastal areas (making sure you commence as per the label recommendations to ensure your pet is covered by the time you arrive). Up north, heartworm is more prevalent so make sure this is up to date.

So take a few sensible precautions, and your pets can enjoy summer as much as you do. And remember – next year, start your Christmas shopping in September. I’ll try and remind you.”

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