How to help your pet during a heatwave
As temperatures rise our pets become vulnerable to heat stress. Australian summers are getting hotter each year and it’s important that we act quickly during a heatwave to keep our pets safe. Here is some information to keep your pet cool and safety tips on what to do if you find your pet suffering from heat stress.
Heat stress can be fatal
Unlike humans, most animals can’t sweat to reduce body heat. Instead, dogs reduce heat by panting, but there is a limit to how much they can cool themselves down.
No matter how healthy your pet is, heat stress can prove dangerous for animals of all shapes and sizes. Dogs with short noses, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs and Boxer type breeds are at greater risk.
Heat stress occurs when animals are exposed to hot and humid environments. Most commonly, animals locked in cars or exercised on hot days succumb to heat stress. Temperatures inside cars can rise to lethal levels very quickly. Never leave your pet in a car, even with the windows down.
Modifying your exercise or walking routine must be considered in the warmer months. Walking early in the morning or late in the evening is recommend as the temperatures are generally cooler at these times.
Avoid leaving your pet outside on hot days, provide a cool area indoors with a fan or air-conditioning. Ensure your pet has adequate shade and always refrain from tethering a dog. Give them free access to cool areas, shade and cool surfaces (indoor tiles or cold garage cement) to lay on.
Recognise the signs of heat stress and act fast. Quick action could save your pets life! Excessive panting, restlessness, vomiting and ‘brick red’ gums are common signs.
Signs of heat stress
- Excessive panting
- Bright red gums
- Anxious pacing, uncoordinated, stumbling
- Seizures or strange behaviour
- Collapse, coma
Heat stress can affect pets in an instant. Always take measures to ensure your pet is protected against weather extremities.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stress, you should contact your closest vet or call your local Greencross Vets for advice immediately.
Greencross Vets partner with 24 hour emergency vet hospitals that are here to help around-the-clock.
First aid techniques
- Move your pet into a cool area immediately
- A tepid water bath or hose down is ideal. Concentrate under the armpits, stomach, neck, inner thighs and pads of the feet
- Wrap your pet in a cool, damp towel and place them in front of a fan
- For larger pets, gentle hosing or bathing with cool water, followed by cool towels applied to the head and stomach
- Cool your pet slowly to avoid hypothermia, which is why it is important to use tepid tap water. Never use ice or ice packs to cool
- Contact your vet immediately for advice, heat stress is life threatening and a quick response can make all the difference
- Ensure your pet has access to plenty of fresh, cool water at all times, preferably in plastic or terracotta bowls
- Modify your exercise routine with your pet to avoid the midday sun, avoid hard surfaces as this can damage their feet
- NEVER leave a pet in a car even if the windows are open or even if it appears to be an overcast day
- Remember that all pets can be affected by heat stress but pets with ‘short noses’ , overweight, very young or older animals are at a higher risk
- Make sure that outdoor pets have access to lots of shade and cool areas
- Inside pets also need to have access to lots of fresh water and well-ventilated spaces
Remember, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stress, immediately contact your closest vet for advice. Our partner emergency vet hospitals are open 24 hours a day.