Cyprus Mail

Dealing with our pets during a heatwave

Feature Annette Main Simple Commonsense Teaches That Dogs Should Not Be Walked During The Day
Does your pet have white ears and a short nose? Take extra care of them in the heat

By Annette Chrysostomou

Much has been written about what we should do when confronted with temperatures as high as 45C, but what about our pets?

Many of them are just as vulnerable as we are, or even more so.

“Even cats, who like hot weather, are susceptible to heat strokes and hypothermia in temperatures above 40C,” said Athos Efstathiou, veterinary surgeon at Zopyros vet clinic in Strovolos.

What should we do unless we are willing and able to pay for constant air conditioning to keep our dogs and cats cool in the home?

Don’t rely on a fan as the second-best option. According to the Humane Society website, pets respond differently to heat than humans do. Dogs and cats sweat primarily through their feet.

“Fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people,” the website warned.

“With temperatures above 40C the animals shouldn’t go for a walk even at 8 or 9pm. Because of the heat coming through the tarmac their body temperature increases,” Efstathiou added. “It is something that we cannot feel but the animals do because their body is so close to the tarmac and they are exposed to the heat.”

Common sense will probably make people limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, but what owners might not know is that one needs to be especially careful with pets with white-coloured ears as are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing.

Feature Annette Paws Burned On A Hot Pavement
Paws Burned On A Hot Pavement

It is not just the heat which endangers the animals.

“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” said Dr Barry Kellogg of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels – very quickly.”

Showers and baths are an option, but there may be a trade-off. Some dogs and all cats find them stressful, in which case it may be better to refrain from subjecting them to a refreshing shower or that cooling soak in the bathtub.

If cat owners do decide a bath or shower is necessary, caution is required when it comes to instructions, though most online guidelines mention there might be some resistance. How about “clip the cat’s claws before the bath”. Really? What cat lets you do that? “Gently lower your cat into the bath,” Better Homes and Gardens recommends. Seriously? I don’t think Pia my cat would ever let me get to this step or the next one: “Gently pour water over her back using a cup or pincher.”

The husky which our household recently adopted, a rescue dog, is not as difficult, but some preparation is required. There is a lovely video online, presumably a guidance for new husky owners.

It all looks very easy: dog standing there not moving at all, owner nicely dressed and hosing down dog, until you realise the dog is in a contraption which holds his back and front and he can’t move anyway.

Dressing in very casual clothes and bringing a second person to hold the dog is probably a more realistic option for people who don’t have such elaborate equipment.

Thinking of shaving off that fur? It doesn’t work for huskies, though clearly they need a thinner coat for the Nicosia heat.

Like huskies and a number of other dogs, cats benefit from their fur coats. You might think your cat’s fur coat makes them miserable during hot weather, but the reality is that fur has insulating properties that help regulate body temperature.


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