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Heat and your pets: Q & A with Dr Charlie

Which animals are most at risk of overheating?

With regard to dogs and cats our short-nosed friends such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Persian cats have the highest risk of developing heat stress. Other dogs and cats at risk include those carrying too much weight, old and very young animals. Pocket pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets are also at very high risk.

What steps can I take around my home to prevent my pet from overheating?

Some simple steps you can take to keep your pet cool is making sure your pet has access to a well ventilated and shady spot; ensuring free access to water; never leaving a pet in a car and not exercising your dog on hot days or only at dawn/dusk when it is coolest. High risk pets may need extra attention such as being brought indoors on especially hot days. Please consult your veterinarian to develop a plan.

What are some cool treats I can give?

Ice blocks in the water can be a good way to help pets keep cool over the summer months. Add ice cubes to the drinking water for all pets to keep them refreshed. For dogs you can make special larger iceblocks containing food items, using an old yogurt or icecream container, these will keep them occupied and cool all day. Items to try include kibble, treats, fruit, veggies etc. These items can also be frozen as themselves as a cool treat but they will not last as long as a big iceblock. A good frozen treat for summer is frozen watermelon. It is important to remember ice is only for healthy pets that are not suffering heat stress. If you notice any of the signs below do not give ice or ice water.

What are the early warning signs that my pet is suffering heat stroke?

Excessive panting or any changes in the respiratory rate or effort when the pet is resting is enough to warrant immediate veterinary care. Other signs that a pet in distress may show are: drooling and excessive salivation; disorientation, agitation and mental confusion; changes in the gum colour – can be bright red or very pale; vomiting and diarrhoea (possibly with blood); collapse; and seizures.

What can I do if I notice these signs?

If you feel your pet may be suffering from heat stroke seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Can my pet get sunburn?

Animals, particularly those with light coloured skin, can be affected by sunburn which can be painful in the short term and similar to humans, repeated sun exposure can lead to skin cancers. To help prevent sunburn provide your pet with plenty of shade, don’t exercise them during the sunniest part of the day and if they will permit it use a pet sunscreen. Pet sunscreens can be found at pet stores or at veterinary clinics and should be applied to the nose, ears and belly. If you notice any redness or crustiness to the skin, please seek veterinary attention.

overheating dogs, bulldog

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