Transporting animals in hot weather
We are often asked – with some anxiety – what’s the best way to transport your new pet on the day you bring them home. We will, of course, provide you with a box or bag that’s suitable to get your new companion home safely, but there are a few things that you need to know as you set out on your journey home.
The biggest one is temperature. Now, if you’ve read many of our articles you will know that this is a subject close to our hearts that we bang on about pretty much all the time! This is because, when you’re talking about reptiles, temperature is absolutely the most important thing. A lack of UV, food, even water can be tolerated temporarily – but get your temperature wrong, and the results can be fatal. Heat kills.
When you collect your new pet, they will be in a box or bag, usually padded with shredded paper to give them something to grip and hide under. Ideally, their space will be restricted so that they can’t dash about and injure themselves, and darkened so that they will be less stressed. Although it seems strange, bigger is not better when it comes to transport; a large, clear box, no matter how well ventilated, is going to feel terrifying to most reptiles. Nothing to hide under, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to feel safe, exposed on all sides – remember, in the wild, this would be a death sentence. Not able to find somewhere to hide from possible predators will have your new pet’s instincts sounding every red alert siren they have, and the sheer stress alone can be fatal.
Add thermal stress to that, and your new pet is going to be in trouble.
So what can you do about it? Two things will keep your new pet safe:
Keep them cool. Yes, most reptiles like heat – but they need to be able to cool off. When they are being transported, they have nowhere to go to regulate their temperature; remember, they don’t have an internal heating system like mammals do! They can’t sweat either. Small bodies heat up faster than large ones; a short exposure to high temperatures that would be safe for an adult bearded dragon can be rapidly fatal for a baby. So it’s up to us to make sure that they stay cool enough to be safe for the time it takes to transport them to their new home.
In the car, use your air conditioner/climate control. What we’re looking for is the sort of temperature that’s comfortable in short sleeves; keep them in the shade, keep them out of draughts but keep them well ventilated. Think about your journey home, and which direction the sun will be shining into your car. If you are using public transport, it makes more sense to pick your pet up on a different day when the weather is being more co-operative.
Keep them calm. Don’t be picking up the box and staring into it. Don’t shake the box so that the animal pops back into view from its hiding place under the paper. Don’t open the box or bag in the car so you can have a cuddle on the way home. Don’t squeeze the bag so that you can feel the animal move inside it.
You wouldn’t have bought a new pet if you didn’t want to interact with it, we do understand! But please remember that the journey is going to be a very stressful one for your new pet, and it’s absolutely vital to keep that stress level as low as possible. If you are collecting your pet as a family, allocate one member of the family (preferably an adult) to carry your new pet home. Keep the box or bag level, on your lap or in the footwell between your feet. Don’t use the boot – it’s noisy and hot! The parcel shelf and dashboard are also very bad choices, as they are frequently in full sunlight. The middle seat in the back is often the best place temperature wise, just make sure that your pet can be secured and is out of the reach of questing little fingers.
If you can’t put them straight into their new enclosure, make sure that the box or bag is placed somewhere cool and shaded. Keep them out of the way, don’t handle or interfere, and leave them there until their new house is ready for them. We don’t generally allow an animal to be collected on the same day as their new home for this very reason, although we always try to be as flexible as possible.
Our settling in guide goes into specific detail as to what is the best way to proceed once you arrive home; this is just a quick overview of how to keep your new pet happy and comfortable during the occasional bouts of really hot weather that seem to be becoming more common.
Remember, we’re always here for advice and help!