Animals at risk of heat exhaustion too

WITH temperatures soaring into the mid-40s today, locals are reminded that animals are just as much at risk of heat exhaustion as humans.

Naracoorte and Penola Vet Centres veterinarian Maggie Schibler offered some tips to keep pets comfortable in the hot weather.

"Provide them with fresh, clean water all the time and you can even put some large ice cubes in there for them," she said.

"Frozen treats are a good idea - frozen tinned food or bones they can lick.

"Hose them down and keep them inside if you can."

Dr Schibler stressed animals should not be left in vehicles when temperatures were extreme, even with the windows down.

Try to take your pets for gentle walks in the early mornings or late evenings but don't take them running or to do any heavy exercise, she added.

Working dogs should be given adequate breaks for water and if they appear to be badly affected by the heat a wet towel can be placed on top of them to cool their body temperature down quickly.

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources animal welfare manager Dr Deb Kelly said it wasn't just dogs and cats at risk.

Caged birds should be kept in the shade, not disturbed during the day and sprayed with a fine water mist occasionally, she said.

Backyard chickens also benefit from having their runs wet down, staying cooler if they can sit on wet ground. 

A large umbrella placed over a fishpond can help protect the fish from the sun, and rabbit and guinea pig hutches need to be in a shady place all day.

Just because they are in the shade in the morning doesn't mean they will still be in the shade in the afternoon. 

Dr Kelly said native animals changed their behaviour during extreme heat so it was good to be aware of this too.

"The ground is cooler than the trees during very hot weather, so you may see koalas on the ground as they look for shade and water," she said. 

"This is quite normal, so unless the animals are obviously injured, or don't return to the trees at night, there is usually nothing to worry about.

She said locals could put out large shallow bowls of water in cool spots away from the house which would benefit everything from koalas and possums to birds and lizards.

"Snakes also change their behaviour during hot weather and may stay active well after the sun has gone down." 

If you have any questions or concerns about animals and the hot weather contact your local vet.

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