This is the time of year where we need to be mindful about the effects the hot weather can have on our pets. Unlike humans, most animals can’t sweat to reduce body heat. Instead, dogs and cats mainly lose heat by panting but there is a limit as to how much they can cool themselves down.

Signs of heat stroke in dogs and cats

No matter how healthy you think your pet is, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds – in fact pets of all shapes, sizes and ages can be affected by heat stroke. Dogs with short noses, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekingese are particularly at risk.

Heat stroke occurs when animals are exposed to hot and humid environments, for example when locked in cars, as the temperature can rise to lethal levels very quickly and in many circumstances it is life threatening.

Modifying your exercise or walking routine must be considered in the warmer months also. Exercising early in the morning or late in the evening is recommend as the temperatures are definitely cooler at these times.

Ensure your pet has adequate shade in the backyard and refrain from tethering a dog to something that can prevent them from seeking different areas of the yard throughout the day. Make sure that you provide plenty of water in multiple places and use plastic or terracotta dog bowls instead of metal ones.

Signs that your pet could be suffering from heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red gums
  • Salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Anxious pacing, uncoordinated, stumbling
  • Seizures or strange behaviour
  • Collapse
  • Coma

Heat stroke can affect pets so quickly that they can become comatose, or even die, within a very short time frame of being exposed to the heat and direct sun.

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heat stroke you should contact your local Greencross Vet for advice immediately. In the meantime, there are a few techniques that you can do to keep your pet quiet and try to lower the body temperature.

First aid techniques for heat stroke in pets:

  • Soak a towel in tepid water and place it over or wrap it around your pet
  • Using tepid water, wet their head, stomach, neck, inner thighs and the pads of their feet
  • For larger pets, gently hose or bathe them with tepid water, followed by applying wet towels to their head and stomach
  • You want to cool your pet slowly to avoid hypothermia, which is why it is important to use tepid water not iced water
  • Turn on the air-conditioner or place your pet in front of a fan
  • Take your pet to your nearest Greencross Vets clinic

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Tips on preventing heat stroke in your pet:

  • Ensure that your pet has access to plenty of fresh, cool water at all times – use plastic or terracotta bowls
  • Modify your exercise routine with your pet to avoid the midday sun – avoid hot roads or footpaths that may burn your pet’s feet
  • NEVER leave a pet in a car even if the windows are open or even if it appears to be an overcast day
  • Remember that all pets can be effected by heat stroke but pets that are overweight, older animals and specific breeds with shorter noses are at a higher risk
  • Make sure that outdoor pets have access to lots of shade and prevent tethering them to an object that may not allow them to move freely around their yard
  • Inside animals also need to have access to lots of fresh water and well ventilated spaces

If it’s too hot for you then it is too hot for your pet!

Written by: Dr Nick Taylor, Greencross Vets Roseville