As the warmer months begin, its normal to see more and more people out with their pets – enjoying the sun, sand and surf. With all the fun you’re having, its easy to forget one very important thing about our fury friends: they find it more difficult to regulate their body temperature than humans do and are can suffer from heatstroke very easily.
Heatstroke is a life-threatening situation and, if not acted upon quickly, can be fatal. Dogs and cats, even rabbits, can not sweat so rely heavily on other cooling methods to regulate their body temperature during the warmer months. The most effective method is panting, as it can expel a large amount of body heat quickly. However, if the outside temperature is also hot, or they are in a confined environment, it can be ineffective.
Signs of Heat Stroke
It is important to know the signs of heat stroke in your pet so you can act as fast as possible!
- Panting (in cats too!)
- Excessive saliva
- Rising body temperature
- Bright red gums OR blue/purple gums (due to lack of oxygen)
- Increased heart rate
- Muscles tremors or seizures
- Collapsing or inability to stand
What to do – First Aid
If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, follow these steps:
- Remove them from the environment: If you are out at the beach or dog park, put your dog immediately in the car and turn on the air conditioner pointing towards them. Try to splash their bodies with water to help cool them, but do not submerge in a water bucket or pool. If they are outside in the sun, bring them inside and place a fan towards them. Again, try to dampen their coat.
- Call your vet immediately and organise to get them their asap. It is important to seek veterinary attention even if the case is mild. These situations can progress quickly and become so severe it is difficult to treat successfully.
- Offer your pet water. While on the way to the vet, try to get your pet to drink some water. Dehydration plays a major role in the fatal effects of heat stroke, so it is important to begin replenishing your pets fluids.
Tips to avoid heat stroke in your pet
- Ensure your pets ALWAYS have a fresh water source available to them, and place them in cool areas
- If your pet stays outside during the day, ensure they have an appropriate cool area where they can rest
- Avoid exercising your pet during the hotter times of day. Leave these fun activities to early morning or late evening when the temperatures are generally cooler and the sun is not bearing down.
- Brachycephalic dog (such as pugs and bulldogs) owners should be even more careful, as due to their elongated soft palates and short noses, they find it difficult to circulate air for cooling. Even during the cooler months, these breeds can overheat and struggle during exercise