This heat we've been having

NICK BARNETT
Last updated 11:35 09/01/2013

On Christmas afternoon at our house, the bodies lay everywhere. In 30-degree heat, two humans, two dogs and a cat all sought space to collapse, cease all motion and pant their way to a slightly lower body temperature. After a while, they would get up and find some other space in which to be motionless.

It was the hottest Christmas Day I can remember in nearly half a century of Christmases in Wellington. It was glorious if you were outdoors, in the shade and sipping something cool, but indoors it was a matter of opening all doors and windows and seeking out a spot where the various draughts and breezes commingled coolingly.

Cats are experts at doing this. So are dogs. But hot weather is not much fun for them, and it's something we humans sometimes forget.

Connor in sunConnor hates the heat - as much as he hates the cold. Last summer we took ourselves and the dogs to a classic car show in a grassy park; the day was bright and hot and the old autos shimmered. As we wandered from Hillmans to Vauxhalls to Armstrong-Siddeleys, Connor pulled on his lead to stay in the shade, planting himself in the cool grass beneath the car bumpers and staying there as long as he could. Phoebe, with a much longer coat, seemed to handle the heat better but she was panting vigorously, getting as much cold air across her tongue as she could, to power her body's cooling system.

The dogs were telling us, "man, we're really feeling this". So as soon as we could, we took them to a cool spot under a tree and gave them drinks.

It's a time of year, for us in the southern hemisphere, to think about how pets are handling the heat. They have terrific natural means of regulating their body temperatures but we humans have a role to play.

Top of the list, for me, is not leaving the dogs in the car in the sun. You might think it's a no-brainer, yet every summer we read more stories about trapped dogs and complacent owners and bad results. If you do have to leave a dog in a car, then I'd say at least leave it water and have some air blowing through partly open windows and make it quick - but I'd rather not risk it at all in summer.

The next big thing for me is remembering to leave plenty of water in bowls at home for the pets. It's easy to forget to refill the bowl, especially when the water is being lapped up at a fast rate - and I know this from guilty experience.

Cat It fountainWe have recently acquired something that seems to help - a water fountain that filters and aerates water, and keeps it moving in a slurpy cycle that seems to encourage the pets to use it. I can vouch for its effectiveness - the cat and dogs took to it quickly. You still have to keep it filled, though.

Then here is an old favourite on the hottest days: a bowl of ice cubes - it's the equivalent of a cold beer for a cat or a dog.

Do you have any tips or warnings on looking after pets during the hottest months? How does your pet show it's feeling the heat?

Check out this blog post for more on sun care, especially for white-furred pets.

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