SIZZLING summer temperatures are making life harder for animals up and down the country.
Putting out containers of water for wildlife is a thoughtful and potentially life-saving thing to do. Shallow containers are ideal for birds and insects, including bees.
If rocks are placed into the containers it can help prevent insects from drowning if they get into trouble; a great thing, considering the bee population is declining worldwide.
Dog and cat bowls should be kept clean and filled, as well as placed in a position where they cannot be knocked over. Placing containers in the shade will help keep the water cool.
Hot surfaces such as footpaths, roads and sand can severely burn and blister a dog’s paws so please remember the five-second rule. If it’s too hot for you to hold the back of your hand on the walking surface for five seconds, then it’s too hot for your pet’s feet.
The best time to walk a dog in summer is the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
Extra care should be taken with dogs with flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs as they are very susceptible to heatstroke, which can kill.
When a dog is at home in its yard, trees or overhead tarpaulins are great for creating shade as they don’t restrict airflow. Dog houses can trap heat and shouldn’t be relied on as being the only source of shade for your dog.
Small gaps from unwound windows are also not much help to your dog on a hot day if you leave him or her unattended in a vehicle. Temperatures climb very quickly, and dogs can die within a very short time, even when a vehicle is parked in the shade.
There is now a $300 fine for the dog owner, as well as the owner of the vehicle, if a dog becomes heat stressed while left unattended.
Carers of pet rabbits, guinea pigs and birds may need to move enclosures to cooler parts of the yard or house in hot weather, as heat stroke can affect small animals very quickly. Ice-cubes wrapped in a cloth or a small ice pack added to an enclosure can also be helpful in keeping small animals comfortable on hot days. So can raising their enclosure off the ground to improve airflow. Bricks or wooden blocks are useful for this purpose.
Heavy covers on horses in summer can cause heat stress, as well as the fleece on unshorn sheep and angora goats. Pigs, deer and cattle can overheat too. Minimum standards from the government codes of welfare for all these animals include that they should have access to adequate water, and be provided with the means to minimise the effects of heat stress.
The codes of welfare expand on the basic obligations of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 by setting minimum standards and recommending best practice for the care and management of animals.
Welfare codes exist for cats, dogs, dairy cattle, sheep and beef cattle, deer, goats, horses and donkeys, llamas and alpacas, ostriches and emus, pigs, layer hens and meat chickens. Further information can be found here: www.mpi.govt.nz
If you see an animal in distress this summer please contact your local SPCA urgently, or phone the Ministry for Primary Industries for concerns about production farm animals such as cows, sheep, goats and other livestock by freephone 0800 00 83 33.
Animal welfare by Carey Conn