Heat stress or heat stroke can occur suddenly and without much warning. In hot environments like unshaded backyards or cars, pets can quickly feel the effects of rising temperatures. All pets can be affected by heat stress. However, dogs with short noses, such as the Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers are at higher risk. Smaller animals, like young puppies and kittens or rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds are also particularly susceptible.
What are the signs?
When suffering from heat stress, a dog will initially show an increase in activity associated with panting and vocalisation. Barking, whining and a worried or furrowed expression is a sign of their distress. As the heat stress progresses, panting becomes excessive and laboured and breathing may become increasingly difficult. Some dogs may drool excessively and even vomit. If the suffering continues, dogs will experience circulatory collapse and their gums will appear blue. They may convulse or become unconscious.
Cats show very similar signs, although it can be harder to identify heat stress in felines.
What you can do to help
It’s vital that your pet’s body is cooled to their regular temperature, especially the head.
- Remove the pet from the hot environment
- Place the pet in towels dampened by cool water. A fan blowing over the damp skin will also help to cool the pet
- Contact a veterinarian as a matter of urgency
- Transport your pet to the nearest veterinarian wrapped in dampened towels
Your veterinarian may put your pet on a drip, perform other emergency procedures, and administer medications to counteract shock and other disorders that occur in heat stress.
The most important thing you can do is take steps to prevent heat stress from occurring.
How to prevent heat stress
- NEVER leave an animal in a car, especially in the hot sun
- If the weather is hot, avoid exercise during the warmest times of the day. Take your dog on a walk only in the early morning or late evening. Exercise in moderation if the weather is very hot
- Make sure that plenty of cool water and shade is always available at home, on walks, and during car travel
- Do not leave pets inside hot, closed houses. If your pet cannot go outside and rest in a cool area of the garden, and you would have the air conditioner or fan on if you were inside, then you should leave it on for your pet also
- Plan car trips carefully during hot weather – make sure the car can be kept cool, water is available and you make frequent stops
The effects of heat stress can be fatal. Always contact your local Greencross Vets if you’re worried that your pet is suffering from the effects of the heat.