Our Summer weather, in the Southern Hemisphere has finally started to kick in. We are always pretty much going to get these hot days, as it is Summer Down Under, but we are not always that prepared for it. Especially when it comes to our pets.

Our pets can really suffer in the summer heat and as owners we need to make sure we have their back and do what we can to make sure they are safe and kept cool during the extreme temperatures. As owners, we have a responsibility to ensure that we provide what our pets need to stay cool and need to remain vigilant in offering our pets ample shade, cool areas and plenty of clean, cool drinking water.

Our dogs particularly can feel the heat and can end up suffering from heat exhaustion and/ or heatstroke, which can make them really quite ill, or even cause them to die. Dogs can not sweat to cool themselves, and they pant heavily in the attempt to cool, however this leads to the evaporation of water from the tongue which then leads to dehydration.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by fatigue and weakness but may also include vomiting and diarrhoea. In the heat exhaustion phase, the pet will likely still have a normal or slightly elevated temperature and dehydration.

Heatstroke is the most severe condition in a spectrum of heat-related illnesses. The first sign a dog may be developing heat-induced illness is typically heat cramps, characterized by muscle spasms.

The transition from heat exhaustion to heatstroke is central nervous system signs such as disorientation or seizures, an elevated temperature, and often, multiple organ dysfunction. Heatstroke results from an inability of the body to cool down. This results in damage to the tissues of the body (inflammation), which leads to decreased blood flow to the organs and can ultimately cause organ damage and failure.

Older pets, pets with thick coats, those with short noses and pets adapted to cooler climates are particularly susceptible to the heat.

Some signs of heat distressed pets can be some of the following:

  • Excessive panting
  • Reddened gums/mucous membranes
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Dehydration 
  • Head tilt: This is often an indication of heat exhaustion, but it has also been seen in dogs who have gone through heat stroke. The head tilt is the result of excess fluid build up in the head and neck and does not necessarily indicate that the dog is actually experiencing heat stroke.
  • Elevated temperature 
  • Vomiting (with or without blood) 
  • Diarrhoea (with or without blood)
  • Disorientation/stumbling
  • Weakness/collapse
  • Seizures/death 

Heat stroke can occur very quickly and is an absolute medical emergency and pet parents need to get their animals to the nearest vet clinic immediately.

If your pet becomes heat stressed, it is critical to cool them down. You can do this by following this technique: When cooling your pet, never use ice, as it can increase the risk of shock (drop in blood pressure, further damage to organs) and even cause hypothermia. Try to move your pet to a cool or shaded area with a fan if possible. Wet your dog with room temperature water and drape wet towels on the back of the dog during transportation to the hospital.  

Some simple tips to keep our dogs and cats cool:

  • Ensure water bowls are not stainless steel and keep them out of direct sunlight. Add a few extra drinking areas in case one gets knocked over, cats and dogs also love flowing water from pet fountains.
  • Keep dog beds and cat perches out of the sun.
  • Create cool zones, hose down under trees, and create ample shaded areas.
  • Do not leave your pet in the car, even for a few minutes. Animals on utes need extra consideration- the tray can become very hot very quickly and can lead to burnt paws. Dogs transported in dog boxes need air flow so the sides should be mesh and they need a cover. Again it can become very hot very quickly in a metal cage. The ute needs to have an insulating material to avoid the dogs coming in direct contact with the metal surface. Avoid transporting them this way if possible on hot days.
  • Only exercise your pet during the cooler parts of the day- early morning or late evening.
  • If your pet is exhibiting any symptoms of heatstroke seek veterinary treatment quickly.
  • Allow your pet inside to lay on the bathroom and kitchen floors. Plus; they will also benefit from a fan or the air-conditioning.
  • If it’s too hot for a run at the dog park, consider teaching your pet a new trick. Flexing their minds can be just as beneficial as a big run.
  • Consider clipping thick-coated breeds.
  • If your dog is outside, a shallow container of water (a child's paddle pool or 'clam shell') they can sit or lie in will help them cool down.
  • If you know it is going to be a hot day and you will be at work, close the blinds in one or two rooms to keep the sun out. This will help the rooms to stay cooler.
  • Animals can get sunburned too. Protect hairless and light-coated dogs and white cats with sunscreen when your animal will be outside in the sun for an extended period of time. Put sunscreen or zinc on exposed areas of pink skin (ear tips and noses).

We can all enjoy the summer a little better if we take care and look after our furriest family members!

 

References:

PetMD https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/systemic/heatstroke-dogs

Pet Insurance Australia https://www.petinsuranceaustralia.com.au/heatstroke-in-pets

Animal Welfare Victoria https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/dogs/health/heat-and-pets

CIVT Animal First Aid