In the lead up to the official start of summer, it’s timely to check the strategies that we have in place to protect our pets against heatstroke – they can be just as susceptible to heat-related illness as their owners!
“Heatstroke is an emergency and requires medical attention by a veterinarian as soon as possible,” said Dr Cath Watson of the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) Companion Animal Society. “Dogs can only lose heat through their paws (they don’t sweat like us) or by panting – high humidity reduces the effectiveness of this.”
According to the NZVA, signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, anxiety or depression, refusal to obey commands, warm and dry skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting and collapse. “You’ll need to act immediately before you get to a veterinarian,” said Dr Watson. “Wet the coat with cool water, and apply towels soaked in cool water to hairless areas.”
Some tips to help your pets avoid heat-related complications this summer include:
- Offer a beverage: Your pets need to stay hydrated, so make sure there is always a supply of cool, fresh water available. Try to ensure that the water is kept in a shady area to reduce the heating and evaporation of the water. You may need to leave out more than one bowl each day, in case one is tipped over or emptied.
- Keep it cool. Many dogs (not quite as many cats) like swimming as much as we do, so if you have a child’s paddle pool or some other type of large container, consider filling it with a couple of inches of water and leaving it in a shady place. You could also put some ice cubes in your pet’s water bowl to help keep the temperature down.
- Tasty treats. Think about some pet-appropriate food that could be frozen and given to your pet during the heat of the day.
- Shady spots. Also make sure there are some shaded spots at all times of day for your pets to shelter under. Remember that areas which are shaded when you leave home in the morning won’t necessarily remain that way all day. You might also want to consider leaving a fan on during the day, for a breeze.
- Exercise in cooler weather. Just as you probably wouldn’t go for a run in the middle of the day, your pets really shouldn’t either. Try to schedule exercise time in the early morning or late evening.
In addition to the above, also make sure you keep an eye on your pets and be on the lookout for the signs of possible heat stroke mentioned earlier. If in any doubt, see your vet.