Keep Cool: Helping Our Furry and Feathered Friends Beat the Heat this Summer


  • Video grabs and quotes from Dr Liz Arnott, RSPCA NSW Chief Veterinarian.
  • Audio grabs from RSPCA Australia.

Dropbox – Images available for download here. Audio and Video content are available here.

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Little Foot keeping cool and enjoying his summer enrichment.

With summer officially on our doorstep and temperatures expected to soar this weekend, RSPCA NSW is urging pet owners to take the necessary steps to keep their companions as cool and comfortable as possible.

Just like us, our pets can become easily heat-stressed or dehydrated in warm weather, which is why it’s important to provide them with access to fresh, cool water, at all times. Multiple water bowls around your house or yard are ideal, as they eliminate the risk of your pet going thirsty if they finish their supply, or if a bowl is accidentally knocked over. Place the water bowls out of direct sunlight, so that the water stays cool.

In addition to plenty of water, cool retreats for your pets are a must. Whether it’s a shaded corner of the backyard or a comfortable spot near a fan inside, supplying our pets with relaxing spaces where they can escape the heat is the best way to keep them safe in hot weather.

“Shallow paddling pools for dogs to splash around in or frozen water bottles for pocket pets to lean against make for great hot-weather enrichment,” says RSPCA NSW Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Liz Arnott.

Pocket pets are particularly susceptible to high temperatures, which is why it’s crucial to ensure their enclosures are in shade and have good ventilation, or that, ideally, they are brought inside whenever possible to protect them from the heat. In the heat and humidity, make sure to monitor the health and behaviour of your pocket pets.

For example, a lethargic, stretched out bunny with warm ears could be a sign that your rabbit is suffering from heat stress. This is a medical emergency and veterinary attention should be sought if you are concerned.

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Rabbits are susceptible to heat stress, so it’s best to bring them inside on hot days.

In addition to pocket pets, other small animals, such as birds, will also benefit from being kept in the shade or being brought inside on hot days. Poultry, such as chickens, are also affected by rises in temperature and humidity.

“If you keep chickens, it’s important to ensure that their coop has proper ventilation that allows hot air to escape and fresh, cool air to enter and circulate,” suggests Dr. Arnott.

“Frozen berries or corn also make for excellent cooling treats for chickens to peck on as they thaw. There are a variety of resources online that share great frozen treat recipes we can make for our pets over summer to assist in keeping them cool.”

For dogs, cats and pocket pets alike, summer grooming is vital for guaranteeing optimum health and happiness, all season long. For cats and rabbits, gentle brushing will aid in removing excess hair whilst also reducing the risk of hairballs or obstructions. For dogs, grooming needs vary by breed.

Whilst exercise is essential for our animals, there are simple adjustments we can make to be sure they aren’t becoming overexerted in the heat. Opt for early morning or late evening walks rather than during the hottest part of the day. This will also ensure that the pavement you’re walking on is at its coolest, as during hot summer days, roads and sidewalks can become blistering hot – posing a risk to your pets’ paws. If it still feels too hot to go for a walk in the evening, consider doing some training or playing some games inside at home rather than expose your pet to high temperatures, especially if you have a senior pet or a brachycephalic breed.

To protect sensitive skin, consider dog-safe footwear and invest in pet-friendly sunscreen for your dog’s nose, ears and face, to minimise the chance of sunburn, especially for light-coloured companions.

“If you’re not sure whether the footpath is too hot to walk your dog, we recommend following the five-second rule. Simply place the back of your hand on a surface for five seconds. If you can’t handle the heat, your dog can’t either, which means you should wait until things cool down before venturing out,” adds Dr. Arnott.

As we keep cool this summer, it’s important to remember that we’re likely not the only ones feeling the heat. By incorporating these tips into our routine, we can safeguard our pets from soaring temperatures and ensure a safe and enjoyable summer period for all members of the family.

For more information, see the RSPCA Knowledgebase. If you suspect your animal might be suffering from heat related stress, contact your nearest veterinarian as soon as possible.