Heatstroke

Feeling hot, hot, hot?

We bang on about heatstroke in dogs a lot and there's a reason for that - we still see casualties every year when the temperature rises, and often from fully preventable causes. 

Dogs cannot sweat like we can - instead they cool themselves by panting (drawing cooler air in from the environment and expelling warmer air from the lungs), and drinking cool water. This is not very effective, especially when you're wearing a fur coat and the outside air isn't that cool! 

Some dogs are more predisposed to develop heat stroke than others.  Dogs with short noses and narrow airways termed brachycephalic breeds (for example, Pugs and French Bulldogs) suffer more with the heat.  These dogs in particular, should certainly not be exercised in the middle of the day. No dog has died from missing a walk but plenty do from taking one on a hot day.

What are the signs to look for? 

  • Excessive panting
  • Thick drool/saliva coming from the corners of the mouth
  • Noisy breathing
  • Crackly breathing
  • Weakness
  • Lack of co-ordination

Severe cases may present with collapse, seizures, vomiting and/or diarrhoea (in these severe cases the damage is often irreversible – even if we can save these dogs in the emergency situation, they will often end up with organ damage a few days down the line).

There are some considerations for cats too:
Cats with pale ears/noses or thin hair can be prone to sunburn which can sometimes lead to skin cancers. If your cat will let you, you can apply pet-friendly sunscreen (for example, Filtabac) to these areas but best of all, ensure they stay in the shade wherever possible. A ventilated cardboard box can be fun for them to hide in and provide shade. Do not use human sunscreen as pets can be sensitive to some of the chemicals in them if ingested through licking.

If your cat prefers indoors, keep the curtains closed to keep your house cooler. Sometimes, on a really warm day, having the windows shut is better than open.

Ensure they have lots of access to fresh water – cats can be very discerning and often prefer a bowl full to the brim, and ceramic or metal bowls to plastic ones. Place bowls away from their food and ideally in several different locations. Water fountains are also a good idea as some cats love running water.