The worst of the summer heat waves might be over, but with high temperatures still common in Brisbane at this time of year, it’s important to know how to keep your pet cool and comfortable when hot days unexpectedly strike. Some dogs can be at risk of overheating in temperatures as low as 25 degrees, so it’s important to be vigilant even when you’re not feeling the heat yourself.
Just like humans, dogs and cats can become very ill if they’re overheating. They may suffer breathing difficulties, shock, dehydration, organ failure and even death. Even dogs with mild heat stress can go on to become unwell, especially those with double coats, Arctic breeds or Brachycephalic breeds with a short nose. Pugs, French Bulldogs, Staffies, Shih Tzus, Persian or Burmese cats are more susceptible to overheating because it’s hard for the air to circulate normally in their small nasal passages. With these breeds, it is vital to minimise exercise in warm weather.
So how can you tell if your pet is overheating?
Heavy panting is one of the most common symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. It can happen very easily in the breeds mentioned above but all are at risk. Other signs include a dark red tongue, appearing distressed or agitated, wanting to lie down on walks, looking for cool surfaces to lie on and being reluctant to move from there, vomiting and drooling, reduced urination and a fast heart rate that you may be able to feel through the chest.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to protect your pet from the heat. First, be sure to observe your dog or cat’s behaviour on hot days and minimise exercise in warm conditions. Just because your fur baby looks at you with those big puppy dog eyes begging to go for a walk doesn’t mean you should. Stay strong!
If you decide it’s safe to take your pet for a walk or on a car trip, be sure to take water with you. Also try to exercise your pet in the cooler hours of the day, either in the early morning or late in the evening. At home, be sure to provide them with plenty of shade and water. If they’re indoors they will need plenty of air-flow so be sure to open windows and doors or turn on fans or air-conditioning.
Just as humans enjoy a cool drink or ice-cream on a hot day, lots of dogs love icy treats when the mercury starts to rise. Try freezing meaty chunks, vegetables or stock in ice cube trays and give them to your pup to enjoy.
For dogs and cats that are prone to feeling the heat or live in hot environments, cooling mats can provide relief. These are stored in the freezer and placed on the floor for your pet during the hottest times of the day.
If you are concerned about your pet being overheated or suffering from heat stroke, please call us at The House Call Vet immediately. We will be able to advise on any initial first aid you may be able to do at home while you wait for us to visit. Most cases of heatstroke will require a vet assessment to check the vital signs like core temperature and blood pressure. Many require hospital care for intravenous fluids and intensive monitoring to ensure the kidneys and other vital organs are not damaged by the heatstroke. Initial first aid advice may involve cooling your pet with water and providing circulating air, but these are not suitable on their own. A vet assessment is necessary if your pet is showing any signs of distress.
And when the temperature finally drops again, grab the lead and head out for that long-awaited walk!