Hot Weather Can Harm Pets

23/Jan/2015


Another scorcher!

Heatstroke is one of the most serious conditions we see at the Animal Emergency Centre. It is life-threatening, requires intensive veterinary care, and is totally preventable.

Heatstroke is defined as a state of extreme high body temperature resulting in thermal injury to tissues. It occurs when heat generation exceeds the body’s ability to lose heat. It can very quickly lead to multiple organ damage or failure involving the brain, kidneys, clotting system, stomach and intestines and liver, and can be fatal.  

Situations or pet factors that increase the risk of heatstroke include a warm/ hot and humid environment, lack of access to cool and clean water, no access to shade, lack of ventilation, obesity, short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs, the very young or very old, animals with pre-existing respiratory disease (laryngeal paralysis, collapsing trachea), cardiovascular disease or brain disease. 

Signs that a pet may be suffering from heatstroke will vary among individuals, but often include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Increased drinking
  • Weakness, fatigue or reluctance to get up
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bright red gums or tongue
  • Muscle tremors, muscle spasms
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Staggering
  • Collapsing and lying down

If you think your pet has heatstroke immediately start cooling your pet by hosing the body down with tap water (do not place water on or around the head or face). Make sure the water goes all the way through the fur and down to the skin. Spend at least 15 minutes cooling your pet, lightly towel dry so there are no drips, and immediately transport your pet in an air-conditioned car to a veterinarian. Do not wrap your pet in a towel during transport – just sit them on a bed or blanket and allow the cool air to blow on them. 

The best medicine is always prevention. Below is some useful information on how to keep your pet cool during the summer:

  • Provide plenty of clean fresh water and extra water sources in case of spillage, and leave it in a shady position.
  • Provide pets with a cool, shaded area. 
  • Ensure good ventilation at all times since animals cool down via evaporative cooling (panting) which requires adequate air flow.
  • Bring animals indoors on hot, humid days if the indoor environment is cooler for the animal, especially if air-conditioning or a child-safe fan are available.
  • If pets are unable to come indoors, provide a kids paddling pool with a few inches of water and leave it in a shady position.
  • Consider putting treats in a container of water and freezing it. This can then be given to your pet as an icy-pole on hot days.
  • Long-haired pets should have their coats trimmed or stripped to help them stay cooler.Do not exercise animals in hot or humid conditions. On hot days try to walk your dog very early in the morning or at sunset and avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Do not leave your dog in a vehicle. Temperatures inside the car can rise to fatal levels quickly. Do not let your dog travel in the back of a ute, as the trays can get very hot in the sun, causing burns to footpads and other in-contact body parts.
  • Don’t forget our smaller pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rats and mice; they too are highly susceptible to heatstroke. These pets are often confined in cages and hutches and are unable to move away to cooler places. Move these animals into a cool, shaded and well-ventilated area during hot weather. They also require clean, fresh drinking water at all times. On very hot days you may need to bring them into a cool place indoors.

With some thoughtful preparation your pet should avoid heat stroke and remain chilled over summer.

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