HEATWAVE: Look after your small furries warns top vet

PETS need extra care during the UK heatwave, warns the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

With temperatures expected to reach record highs today, the BVA want owners to ensure that ‘small furries’ (hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits etc) from soaring temperatures by keeping them away from direct sunlight and ensure that they have access to plenty of fresh water.

A recent survey undertaken by BVA found that there had been an increase in the numbers smaller pets requiring treatment for heat-related conditions – just over one in seven (15%) of vets said that that they had treated a rabbit.

Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small furries such as hamsters cannot sweat or pant so it is up to owners to help them regulate their body temperature. Long-haired breeds of rabbits and guinea pigs or those which are overweight will also have a tougher time staying cool.

BVA advises that hutches, runs or indoor cages should be protected from direct sunlight, kept well-ventilated, and if needed, moved to shadier spots as the sun moves during the day. We also recommend double-checking that fresh water is easily accessible and that there is a shaded place for pets to hide.

In high temperatures, fly-strike can also be a life-threatening risk for rabbits so a daily inspection around their back end and under their tail is essential. Veterinary advice should be sought immediately if your pet is affected.

BVA Junior Vice President, Daniella Dos Santos, said: “We all know how important it is to stay cool and hydrated in hot weather. Pets can really suffer in such high temperatures and we should not forget that small furries will need help to cope.

“In the wild, rabbits and guinea pigs would hideaway during the hottest points of the day and feed in the mornings or evening. It is up to owners to help protect pets from extreme temperatures so remembering to provide shade and plenty of fresh water as well as keeping hutches and cages out of direct sunlight and well ventilated is essential.

“If you’re concerned about your pet in the hot weather, contact your local vet immediately.”

With temperatures set to soar up to 38 degrees in parts of the UK tomorrow, BVA and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are highlighting some simple steps to help keep all pets safe.

Top tips

  • Make sure pets always have adequate fresh water to drink and check for blockages in water feeders
  • Provide adequate ventilation at all times
  • Provide shade from the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day
  • Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, restlessness and lack of coordination
  • Contact a vet immediately if the animal does not respond to efforts to cool it down
  • If heatstroke or any other heat-related condition is suspected, pets should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated place and given water to drink while seeking immediate advice from their local vet.

Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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