Keep Pets Cool During the Hot Weather!
Summer is finally here, and once again as the weather hots up, we are now seeing posts and adverts cropping up on social media about pets suffering from heatstroke. So how can we prevent this serious and potentially fatal condition?
Heat stroke is a fever caused by high environmental temperatures. The normal body temperature of cats and dogs is around 38.5°C. Pets are at risk of heat stroke when exposed to hot and humid temperatures, because they cannot effectively cool down in the same way as humans do – by evaporation of sweat from the skin – and this can result in the body’s core temperature rising drastically to above 40°C. Once the body exceeds 41.5-42.5°C, cellular function is seriously affected and unconsciousness and even death may follow.
SITUATIONS THAT CAN LEAD TO HEAT STROKE:
- Pets left outdoors in hot weather with no shade or water.
- Exercising pets in hot weather.
- Leaving pets in a closed car in direct sunlight or on a warm day even with open windows can be deadly in a very short period of time. Panting is a dog’s normal physiological means to cool off, but actually saturates the air with water vapour making the air in the car warmer and consequently even more difficult for the pet to cool down!
- Conservatories can also act like a hot oven, so pets should never be left in them unsupervised.
- Young and old animals are more sensitive to high temperatures because they cannot acclimatize effectively.
- Thick-coated breeds such as the German Shepherd and Husky etc.
- Animals with medical problems, history of seizures, heart or lung disease are at increased risk.
- Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed breeds) such as Boxers, Bull Dogs, Shih tzus, Pekinese and Persian cats are particularly susceptible, as their flattened faces make breathing more difficult.
SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE:
- HEAVY PANTING
- DIFFICULTY IN BREATHING
- HOT TO TOUCH
- INCREASED HEART AND RESPIRATORY RATE
- BRIGHT RED GUMS AND LIPS
- DEPRESSION / REDUCED MENTATION
- LETHARGY / DROWSY / ATAXIA (ACTING DRUNK)
- COLLAPSE / SEIZURES / COMA
- The aim is to cool the animal down back to a normal body temperature. Care must be taken not to overly cool the animal which can lead to hypothermia and shock.
- If the pet is outdoors or in a car – move them out of direct heat and sunlight, into a cool shaded area.
- Use cool / tepid – but not ice cold – water to gently cool the animal – tap water (15-16 C) has been found to be most effective at cooling pets with heat-related illness.
- Encourage drinking of small amounts of cool water, if they are conscious.
- Wet towels placed over the body can actually worsen the condition by trapping heat. In mild cases, wet towels can be placed under the body, but not over, and in a true emergency pouring water with air movement is ideal.
- If available, direct a fan toward the animal to help them cool down.
- Throughout the treatment of heatstroke, try to avoid pouring water on or near your pet’s head as there is a risk of them inhaling water which could lead to drowning, especially in flat-faced breeds.
- Call the veterinary surgery and prepare to make your way straight down for further treatment as required – turn on air conditioning in the car if available.
Lets also not forget our smaller furry friends. Many rabbits and guinea pigs are housed outdoors, so please ensure they are kept in a well-ventilated enclosure, with access to shaded areas and fresh drinking water at all times!
If you are concerned your pet may be showing signs of heat stroke, please contact the surgery on 01325 380111 for further advice.