Keeping small pets cool in summer

by PDSA | 8 July #Lifestyle

We all know what to do to keep ourselves cool over the summer months, but what about our small pets? Mice, hamsters, gerbils and rats can be very sensitive to heatwaves due to their tiny size – especially as the heat can make it harder for them to regulate their body temperature. There's lots of things you can do to keep them cool and comfortable!

How do I know if my pet is too hot?

It's important that all pet owners can recognise the signs of heatstroke and know what to do in an emergency. Common signs in small pets are:

  • Drooling
  • Low energy
  • Eating less/ not eating
  • Taking short, quick breaths
  • Lying stretched out or flat on their belly
  • Being very sleepy or lethargic (having low energy)
  • Falling unconscious or having fits

If you’re worried your pet might have heatstroke, or they’re showing any of the symptoms above, it’s important to contact your vet immediately – remember, heatstroke can be life-threatening.

 

Top tips to help small pets cope with hot weather

When it comes to the heat, prevention is always better than cure. There's lots of things you can do to help your small pets beat the heat and stay happy and healthy!

Plenty of shade

Think carefully about the best place for your pets’ enclosure. Your small pets will be happiest and healthiest out of direct sunlight. Most small pets are very sensitive to changes in temperature and if they're in the sun they could quickly overheat. Make sure they’re in a shaded area throughout the day and close the curtains on the sunny side of the house to keep the room cooler.

Cool but not draughty

On a hot day, your small pets will appreciate being kept in a cool and airy room. An open window can bring in some fresh air and a fan can help keep the air moving but make sure your pets’ enclosure is out of any draughts. A cold draught blowing over them all day can become uncomfortable, or even dangerous if they have nowhere to shelter. Make sure to check on them regularly to see that they haven’t got too hot or cold. If your pet is kept in an enclosure with solid sides, it’s even more important to make sure the room is cool and that they can still feel the breeze.

Plenty of water

Your pets may need to drink more in hotter weather. They'll need access to fresh, clean water at all times. Check their water bowls and bottles every day – clean and refill with fresh, cool water and make sure that the spouts aren't blocked. Check regularly throughout the day and add more water as needed. Don’t be tempted to bathe your pet in water though, the sudden change in temperature can be too much for them, and can lead to them getting too cold – even on a hot day!

 

Check their nesting area

It’s important for your pets’ nesting (or sleeping) area to stay cool during hot weather so they can rest and sleep as comfortably as possible. Avoid plastic houses, dens and tunnels as these can become very warm and humid in hot weather. Instead, why not make a shelter for your small pet from a cardboard box? You can include a few different entrances/exits which will allow airflow, helping to keep your pet cooler. You should also check their bedding every day and change it if it’s getting damp and at least once weekly. For pets that store food in their nest which can go stale or mouldy in warm, moist conditions, it’s a good idea to clean their nest area every 2-3 days.

A cool place to sit

There are lots of ways to provide your small pets with a comfy, cool spot to rest. You can use a frozen water bottle to give your pets a nice cool spot in their enclosure. Fill a bottle three-quarters with water and freeze it overnight. Place it on the outside of their enclosure so they can lie next to it to cool down. Don't put the bottle inside their enclosure – it could make them too cold!

You can also buy cool mats or cool blocks that are safe for small pets, but remember to make sure your inquisitive friend doesn’t nibble or damage them. Household objects like ceramic or china cups and tiles can also help cool your pet – just make sure there’s no sharp edges, and that your pet can’t get their legs trapped or become crushed if the object falls onto your furry friend!

Hydrating treats

On hot days, give your small pets a bit of a treat with some fresh fruit and veg. Snacks like apple, cucumber or celery have extra water in them so will help keep your pet hydrated. You can even pop these in the fridge to make them extra cool. Just remember that our small pets only need a tiny amount of fruit and vegetables compared to a person’s portion. If you give them too much, or a make sudden change in diet, it could lead to a nasty stomach upset, so always feed hydrating treats in small amounts occasionally.

For top tips on keeping your rabbits or guinea pigs cool, read our advice:

How to keep rabbits cool in the summer.

Keeping your guinea pigs cool in the summer: dos and don'ts

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