Lanzarote’s hotter than ever, and your animals feel the heat just as much as you do. Here’s how to help them through August.
This year we’ve already had a handful of calimas and yellow alerts for heat. It comes with the territory, of course – Lanzarote is a sub-tropical island a hundred miles off the coast of Western Africa – but the sheer hostility of Lanzarote’s August onslaught of heat can still come as a shock to those who aren’t used to it.
Local wildlife is well-adapted to this constant struggle with the sun’s scorching heat, and has adapted to make the most of shade, sunshine and scarce moisture.
But unless you keep lizards or geckos, your pets probably aren’t local wildlife. Cats and dogs are both introduced species that have only been on the islands for a few centuries, and their existence here has always been entirely dependent on humans.
You may be fooled into believing that cats have adapted to local conditions by the amount of feral cats that you see around. Some of these cats, it’s true, have found a niche on the outskirts of human existence, but most of them live short, brutal lives in which thirst, hunger and sun damage are constant threats.
Keep animals out of cars
We all know this by now, but each year we still hear reports of dogs dying in cars on hot days. On Lanzarote, the weather is warm enough so that this is an absolute no-no all year round, but in August it’s unthinkable. Keep pets out of cars, and if you absolutely have to take them, make sure they get plenty of air and water, and do not leave them alone behind glass.
Cars aren’t the only threat on an island like Lanzarote – anywhere behind glass or without shade can heat up rapidly and cause risk for animals.
Provide shade and fresh air
Always ensure there’s a shady place for a cat or dog to rest from the heat, and try to ensure a well-ventilated spot, or even a cool fan, for them, too. Cats sleep a lot anyway, but in hot weather they will become siesta masters. Don’t worry about your dozy moggy, it’s just doing what a cat’s gotta do,
Watching the weather will also be useful – calimas and heatwaves in August can make life very uncomfortable for almost every living thing on the island. If the usual north-east alisio breeze isn’t blowing, bringing a little sweet relief, think about cutting down your pet’s outdoor time.
Don’t over-exert your dog
Long walks, runs or even cycle rides with your dog can quickly cause problems in scorching weather. Dogs can only sweat through their footpads and lose heat by panting, and this is hard work in hot weather. Heatstroke is a real risk and can kill. Try not to let it happen in the first place, and if your dog suffers the signs of heatstroke (panting, drooling, collapse, vomiting) put it in a shady place, splash cool (not cold) water on it, use a fan if you’ve got one and give it a little water to drink.
Cats and dogs get sunburnt, too, especially if they have white fur or exposed pieces of pink skin. Ears are the most susceptible areas, and it may be worth putting some pet-friendly sunblock on your animal if it’s going to be spending time in the sun.
Avoid hot floors
Hot floors can damage dogs’ footpads and cause real discomfort. If a floor is too hot for you, chances are it’s too hot for your dog, as well. In the middle of the day on Lanzarote , this will be pretty much any concrete floor or pavement. Care must be taken on beaches, too – sand gets hot and black sand really heats up.
As a general rule, darker floors absorb heat and are even hotter than lighter ones.
The right time
Dogs should be walked in the morning or evening at this time of year; times of day when it’s cool enough to be comfortable. Above all, avoid the hours between 12 and 3pm, when the sun is directly above and at its hottest.
Always ensure your dogs and cats have a plentiful supply of clean, fresh water. That’s the most important part of a pet’s diet in summer, but you should also keep food supplies on the low side. Digestion is hard work, and will take up more energy in hot weather. Be especially careful with dried food, which can make animals very thirsty.