Summer dangers for pets: heat-related diseases
We all know how important it is to keep our pets well hydrated and active during the summer months, but we might not always realise when the hot weather is simply too much for our pets to handle. In this Blog we will look at the dangers associated with extreme heat and discuss ways in which you can prevent your pets from falling victim to heat-related diseases.
The summer period can be a real challenge for pet owners in this part of the world, where daytime temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Dogs need their daily exercise, but great care should be taken to ensure that they do not overexert themselves as this could have a detrimental effect on their health.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are two of the most common heat-related diseases to which pets are susceptible. Heatstroke can occur in pets who are exposed to excessive heat. Dogs, in fact, are much more susceptible to heatstroke than humans because they cannot handle the heat in the same way that we can. They do not have sweat glands, except for a few on their feet, and do not perspire. The only way in which they can rid their bodies of heat is by panting, which is not sufficient when temperatures are high.
Some breeds of dog are more susceptible to heatstroke than others, such as dogs with thick double-coats or dogs with pushed-in faces (Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers) who have smaller airways. Additionally, animals with heart or respiratory problems, those who are exercising too much in the heat and overweight, very young or elderly dogs will also need special consideration as they may be at greater risk of developing heatstroke.
Symptoms and causes
Symptoms of heatstroke include panting, dehydration, excessive drooling, increased body temperature, rapid heart rate, vomiting, coma, depression, weakness, dizziness, red or pale gums, bright red tongue, shock and diarrhoea. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are similar to those of heatstroke, but may not be associated with an elevation in body temperature.
Any hot environment can cause heatstroke in pets, but the main causes are generally careless actions such as leaving dogs in a parked car, leaving pets outdoors or in hot, unventilated indoor places on hot summer days, and over-exercising with dogs in hot weather.
In order to avoid putting your dog at risk of heatstroke, there are some simple measures that you can take. Remember that even 5 minutes outdoors in extreme heat can cause heatstroke in pets. They can quietly escape through an open door, and then be accidentally locked out. Extreme care should be taken in rooms or outdoor spaces for pets with air conditioning because, if the air conditioning stops working, this can be fatal. It is important to check these regularly. We have heard of a number of pets dying due to air conditioning failing in outdoor rooms (not in the house) and nobody noticing.
Tips for preventing heatstroke
- Keep your dog well hydrated, well ventilated and away from hot and humid conditions.
- If you do take your dog for a walk on a hot day, try to do so either early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are generally cooler.
- Should you be concerned that your dog may be bored during the day because it is too hot to go outside, use the opportunity to find some creative solutions for him.
- Keeping your pet occupied in the house will ensure that he is physically and mentally stimulated, thus making him a happy – and, eventually, tired – dog.
Hopefully these simple measures will help prevent your dog from falling victim to heatstroke. However, if you suspect your dog to be suffering from this condition, you must take immediate action. It is important to try to cool him down as quickly as possible using cold water (not ice due to the drastic change in temperature) and to contact your vet immediately. Heatstroke is a life-threatening situation and must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
For further information on heatstroke, please feel free to contact us. Our qualified veterinarians here at CVH will be able to assist and advise you on the subject.
The team at the Canadian Veterinary Hospital, Doha, Qatar