We are seeing a large number of pets affected by the heat. With media and news outlets continually quoting this summer as the longest and hottest on record it is important that we know what precautions we should take to avoid our pets falling victim to heatstroke. Additionally it is important to be able to identify heatstroke and know what action to take in the event your pet has heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when heat generation exceeds the body’s ability to lose heat. Heatstroke is an extremely serious condition that can lead to multiple organ failure and pets can die quickly if they are left untreated. All animals are susceptible to heatstroke so you need to make sure that you take active steps to prevent it.
What do you do if your pet has Heatstroke?
Act quickly to assist your pet in reducing elevated body temperature. This can be actioned by applying cool/normal temperature water onto their fur/skin, followed by fanning/air flow to increase heat loss. Don’t use ice or very cold water as this may further complicate the issue. Wetting down the area around your pet can also improve the situation.
Take your pet to a vet immediately. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency, so even if your pet looks like they may be recovering or you just suspect they might have suffered heatstroke they should still always be checked by a vet. Heatstroke can cause organ damage which might not be evident immediately. Given the seriousness of this condition, it is better to be safe than sorry and have a professional check over your pet.
What are some of the signs of heatstroke?
Signs may vary between individuals, but commonly include:
- Relentless panting (will increase with the severity of heatstroke as it progresses)
- Drooling, salivating
- Agitation, restlessness
- Very red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Increased heart rate
- Breathing distress
- Vomiting, Diarrhoea (possibly with blood)
- Signs of mental confusion, delirium
- Dizziness, staggering
- Lethargy, weakness
- Muscle tremors
- Collapsing and lying down
- Little to no urine production
What are the main causes?
- A warm/hot, humid environment
- Lack of adequate ventilation/air flow
- Lack of adequate shade
- Lack of adequate drinking water
- Excessive exercise
How can you take measures to avoid heatstroke for your pets?
By making yourself aware of the signs and by taking precautions you can minimize the chances your pets will suffer from heatstroke.
- Provide your pets with a cool, shaded area with good ventilation at all times – adequate ventilation and air flow are important as many animals cool down via evaporative cooling (panting) which requires adequate air flow.
- Make sure they have plenty of clean fresh water daily and extra water sources for those pets that have a habit of tipping water buckets etc.
- Bring your pets indoors on hot, humid days if that environment will provide cooler temperatures and ventilation/air movement (e.g. air-conditioning, safe fans, open windows where possible where required and shade).
- Do not exercise your pets in hot, humid conditions. On hot days try to walk your dog very early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cool, and avoid the hottest part of the day. Avoid walking on hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade as dogs are susceptible to burning their footpads. Be conscious of the size, age, health and breed of your dog when determining the impact of walking even earlier or later in the day.
- Do not leave your dog in a vehicle – Even with windows down dogs can still overheat and die. High temperatures in a car combined with poor ventilation mean that a dog cannot adequately regulate their temperature leaving them vulnerable to heatstroke. Pets in these conditions suffer horribly.
- Small animals including guinea pigs, birds, rats and mice are also highly susceptible to heatstroke. These animals are often confined in cages and hutches and are unable to move away to cooler places, so they need to be moved into a cool, shaded and well-ventilated area in 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, for example the laundry.
How do vets help pets with heatstroke?
Vets are trained to assess the severity of the heatstroke and then provide emergency medical treatment as required. They will check your pet’s body temperature and vital signs and then instigate emergency treatment which may include:
- Putting your pet on a drip (intravenous fluids)
- Cooling treatments e.g. cooling enemas
- Supplemental oxygen
- Medication as required
- Blood tests to check organ function
- Ongoing monitoring and treatment as required
More tips for taking care of pets in hot weather
- Dogs travelling on the back of utes are susceptible to burning their footpads/in contact body parts on the ute tray – many of which can get very hot in the sun. Owners need to cover the trays with a suitable material to prevent this problem and provide a shaded area.
- Owners need to be aware of sunburn particularly in pets with white, non-pigmented skin and a white-coloured coat.
Source for further information: http://kb.rspca.org.au/what-can-i-do-in-hot-weather-to-prevent-heatstroke-in-my-pet_353.html
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