As temperatures rise to 30° centigrade, the hot weather can take its toll on both staff and pets. Uncomfortable heat can cause serious issues for customers, animals in store and staff so it’s important to make sure that they all have the correct protection against the weather. All animals, whether small or large, will be affected by the heat so here are some tips on how to maximise comfort.
Make sure all animals always have fresh water
Fresh water is a key part to any pet’s life but it is especially important in hot weather. Providing two bottles or bowls will help reduce the chance of pets running out of water if the store is busy. It’s important to make sure that all animals have fresh water as it reduces the risk of dehydration and helps to cool them down. Under The Pet Animals Act 1951 all animals must be provided with appropriate food and drink, even in hot weather. Change water regularly throughout the day if possible as this will help to keep the water temperature down. Also check on leftover food which may rot and attract flies.
Take extra precautions
Adding freezable ice pods and frozen slates (for animals such as degus and chinchillas) can help bring overall temperature down in the animals’ cages. Although only holding their cool for a certain amount of time, these will give a sufficient amount of chilling at the height of a warm day. If in doubt freeze a full plastic bottle of water, wrap in a towel and place on the outside of the cage, so there is no chance of leaking in the bedding.
Know the signs
It’s important to know the signs of heatstroke for your store pets as well as your customers. Some signs may include – excessive panting, distress, collapse, extreme salivations, inability to move at a normal rate and seizures. If any of these signs are seen in customers or store animals gradually try and cool their body temperature down. If you try and cool them down too much you can cause shock which will lead to further issues. Wrap the animal with a cool damp towel and call a vet. It’s important to advise customers on recognising the signs when they purchase a new animal.
Advising Customers when purchasing animals
It’s important when selling any animal to advise the proper care for their new friend when temperatures begin to rise. Be sure to ask questions about the living arrangements for their new pets for example, “Are you keeping your bird cage by the window?”, “Are your rabbits living outside in a hutch?”, “Is your fish tank in direct sunlight?”. Without asking these questions customers may not receive the right information and harm their new pet through ignorance. Advise all avian customers to keep any cage out of direct sunlight and away from windows as they quickly heat up and cause the birds distress. Always make sure there is somewhere that rabbits, guinea pigs and all other outdoor animals can find shade and they never should be in direct sunlight for long periods of time. With fish, both indoor and outdoor, check that they are not placed in direct sunlight and have a section of shade they can retreat to if needed.
Take care of the smalls
Take care of the small animals as well as the big ones. Help the smaller hamsters by giving them extra ways of staying hydrated (such as slices of kiwi or watermelon) as sometimes they struggle to drink from water bottles. With hot weather unfortunately comes flies, which makes it important to always make sure all rabbits are clean and well groomed. Fly strike (or Myiasis) can be deadly for rabbits in summer. Flies lay their eggs on the rabbit’s skin, usually around their bottom, the eggs then hatch with the maggots eating their way through the rabbit’s skin. This can happen within only a few hours and can cause fatality quickly, making it extremely important to consistently check rabbits and their living areas are always clean.
Dogs in cars
Although not in the store, cars in the car park can be a dangerous hazard to pets whilst their owners are shopping. In the UK, if a dog is left to suffer or die as a result of being left in a hot car, their owner can be prosecuted for neglect or cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and can even face jail. It’s a good idea to display posters around the store demonstrating that dogs should not be left in a hot car, even just for a few minutes. The temperatures within cars can quickly rise and even if windows are open this may not be enough to prevent heatstroke. If any customers alert you to a dog in a car outside, assess the situation and if needs be call the police to assist as it could prevent a fatal attack. By no means try and break into the car unless the situation is life or death because you can be prosecuted for damaging property.
Don’t forget the reptiles
Although most are acclimated to warmer temperatures, reptiles can still be affected by a change in temperature. They should be out of the way of direct sunlight and away from any windows, as the vivarium can quickly heat up more than desired. Make sure water is regularly checked and changed to prevent dehydration. Monitor humidity within the vivarium using a hygrometer and adjust accordingly. Also make a note of temperatures so it is easier to check that they are not rising too high within the cage, as heat mats and bulbs may need to be adjusted or switched off.