An animal fact file of easy to follow tips to prevent sunstroke for animals in Italy,
including what to do with paddling pools,
fashionable eyewear, and
how to use sunscreen for dogs.
Prevention is better than cure.
Given all the facts about the Italian climate and its potential effects on pets, ways of preventing animals in Italy from getting sun stroke in the first place should be fairly obvious. The steps you need to take to make animals safe in the sun are the same as you would take for your family's health.
It's a question of keeping them cool, keeping an eye on them, taking as much care of pets as you would of yourself and your children, and not being embarrassed if someone suggests your pet needs some sunscreen for dogs!
|Our orchard in the Le Marche countryside provides some welcome shade.
1. Plan ahead : The Italian climate is particularly hot and dry in July and August. If you're able to take holidays outside that period, do. If not, try to go to the coast or the countryside - Italian cities in the summer are very hot for both people and pets!
There are now several dog friendly beaches with wonderful facilities for anyone who wants to travel with a dog or cat. They are dotted all round Italy's coast. Click here for more information on where they are and what they offer.
2. Plan your accommodation : If you're stuck with those summer months - and many people are because of school holidays - think about renting a house which is 'animal friendly'.
That doesn't mean you necessarily have to break the bank to pay for air conditioning going all day. Our house in Italy, for example, has wooden shutters which keep out the summer heat and maintain a lovely cool temperature in the house even when the sun is blazing outside.
And here's another tip - before you book, ask the owners if they provide fans so that you know you will be able to keep a nice draught on your animals during your stay.
3. Check exactly how 'pet friendly' your holiday home will be : Read small print carefully. Although animals in Italy are often made welcome, some hotels and holiday rental accommodation don't accept pets and others insist that animals are not left alone when owners go out.
If you're likely to be spending part of your vacation visiting places where you know you won't be able to take your pet - museums, for example - then make sure your holiday accommodation will allow them to be left. If the answer is 'no', either take someone who doesn't mind being left behind to doggy-sit, find somewhere which will, in the true sense of the word, accommodate both you and your animals - or leave your pet at home while you visit Italy.
|Nero's not keen on being groomed but stripping his coat helps him deal with heat.
4. Strip your pet! : Thick, heavy coats retain heat. Before you take your pets on vacation have their coat cut and the undercoat, if they have one, stripped out.
And while you're on holiday keep your pets groomed to make sure they're not carrying an extra fur coat around with them in the heat!
5. When you get there, acclimatise your pets : Do you remember hearing all the advice about humans avoiding sun stroke by not staying in the heat too long at the start of a holiday but getting used to the sun gradually over a few days? Well, it's exactly the same for animals in Italy.
If they're not used to it, introduce them gradually to sun and no matter how much they seem to want to lie in it (Nero is a sun-worshipper, he would bask in the sun all day if we let him!) don't allow them to.
6. Keep kennels cool : If your pet has to stay in a kennel outside, make sure it's in the shade and remember that both dark colours and wood will absorb heat. Paint it white!
7. Don't be a 'mad dog' : Ever heard of the phrase "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun"? It's true!
Keep animals in Italy out of the sun's glare between roughly 11 a.m. and 3p.m. Do what most people in Mediterranean countries do and let them have a rest. You'll notice cats in particular do this instinctively - our cats in Italy will always find a shady spot and sleep while the sun is at its hottest.
|Staying in the shade : a dog on Naples beach.
8. Provide shade : We make sure our house has plenty of shade for our animals and the pets of guests, and our orchard with its long, cool grass is a specially shady place to be on a hot day.
If you can't find trees or if you're on the beach, take or hire an umbrella and make sure your pet is able to use its shade.
9. Remember - the sun moves! : Keep watching to make sure you don't inadvertently leave your dogs in heat. Even if you provide shade at 9a.m., by mid-day the sun will be in a completely different place.
Make sure your pet is able to move with the sun in order to stay in the shade, otherwise he is in danger of getting sun stroke very quickly. If he's tethered, either re-position the stake or give him a leash long enough to enable him to move around.
10. And remember the Italian climate can change : We've had days where we've been freezing in the snow in the mountains in the morning and boiling in hot sun on the coast in the afternoon. Make sure you're prepared for sun even if the day seems cold when you start out. Early morning chills can be very deceptive.
11. Water, water and more water! : Make sure your pet can always access a large bowl full of fresh, cold water. Animals in Italy rarely have milk - it goes off too quickly in the heat.
Change the water every couple of hours to keep it fresh and cool, and make sure your pet knows where it is. We use ice cubes in our water bowls - the ice melts quite quickly but the water is cold for longer.
12. Take a water bottle if you're travelling : They're easily found, not expensive, and one of the best ways of preventing heat and sun stroke in pets. We use the type with a bowl built in - easy to use on car journeys.
If the weather is really hot, we freeze one bottle the night before so that we have a bottle to hand and another de-frosting which is still nice and cool later in the day. We use this for our own water bottles too - it's the nicest thing to have ice cold water on a hot day!
13. Bury your water bowls : If you're at the beach with your pet, keep his bowl in the shade and part-bury it in the sand. Top sand tends to become extremely hot whereas the sand underneath will be nice and cool.
|Sophie the greyhound has an afternoon nap
in the paddling pool.
14. Give your dog a bath : A basin of water or, even better, a paddling pool, is an ideal place for animals in Italy to cool down.
Fill it with water in the morning and have fun watching your dogs play in it, lie in it - even sleep in it!
15. Don't exercise your pets in the heat : Walk in the early morning or later in the evening when it's cooler, and try not to let animals in Italy play in the heat. Keep to grass whenever possible - it's cooler on the paws - and be sure to keep walks short.
16. Forget markets : Along with cars, another one of my pet peeves is people bringing dogs to activities designed for humans. Flea markets, car shows, music festivals, village parades or carnivals are not the place for animals in Italy. By and large dogs couldn't care less about arts and crafts or bargain antiques!
These events, which take place in Italy all the time, are always crowded with adults and children, but their activities and distractions really have no interest or relevance to animals at all.
So if you're planning a holiday with animals in Italy enjoy these events - they're always good fun - but wherever possible avoid taking your dog. Chances are he will have a much nicer day left in the shade and safety of your home.
|This dog is in danger of sunburn unless
he wears some sunscreen!
17. Use sunscreen for dogs : I laughed when I was first told Nero needed a special sunscreen for dogs - I mean, what self-respecting greyhound would stand for that? But in fact, suggesting a dog sunscreen was very sensible.
Animals in Italy are regularly exposed to the sun for more than thirty minutes at a time and are therefore at risk of sunburn. There is growing evidence that dogs who lie in the sun on their back - as Nero does - are also more likely to get tumours on their belly.
Both dogs' and cats' ears have very little hair and very thin skin and are particularly susceptible to burning; so are their tummy and their nose. And although short-haired pets are more likely to burn than long-haired, you need to be aware that if your animal has pale skin then, just like humans, they can burn and will particularly benefit from a sunscreen for pets.
So why not just use your own sunscreen for your pet?
Human sunscreens can irritate pets' skin because of the added perfumes, and some ingredients can be toxic if licked off - always make sure the cream doesn't contain zinc oxide as your pet can become dangerously anaemic if he eats it. Be aware too that all pets have a habit of trying to lick off what they see as unnecessary liquids, so don't just rely on dog sunscreen, make sure you take other precautions too.
There are many different brands of sunscreen for dogs and cats available on the internet, or ask your vet for advice.
|Dog sunglasses are now all the rage
18. Be aware of the need for dog eye care : Think about your eyes if they're exposed to the glare of the sun for any length of time. We know the sun can cause damage to human eyes and there is now growing evidence that it's also harmful for our pets.
Available on the market now - and a must have for Italy's 'fashionista' dogs! - are pet sunglasses : 'Doggles' are the favourite. Buy them for your animals in Italy and be cool!
(I have to admit that this is one battle I haven't won. Nero and Mike (being male, I suppose) both seem to think that only toy dogs would go this far!)
19. Slap on a hat : Well OK, this is another one I haven't yet won! But there is now a whole range of summer cover-up clothes for dogs, including hats. Just be careful not to overheat your pooch by making him wear a fashionable but perhaps not terribly heat-friendly outfit.
20. Cars : I have to come back to this again because it's one of the biggest killers of animals in Italy (and in other countries). Never, never leave your pet in a car, even with the windows ajar, even 'just for a few minutes'.
Want to take your pet to Italy but not sure about regulations?
This page tells you everything you need to know
about the Pet Passport Scheme (PETS)
On this page are two easy to follow quick travel checklists
explaining pet travel regulations