The Australian summer can be, quite simply, brutal. We humans complain plenty about the heat and humidity – there’s a lot to complain about some days! – but imagine how much worse it is for our furry friends?
Heat exhaustion can be a major issue for animals in the summer, including our beloved pets. Both dogs and cats (as well as rabbits and other animals) release heat by panting. They can’t sweat the way humans do, with only their paw pads having the ability to perspire. The more your pet is panting, the greater heat stress it is under.
Pets overheat due to both hyperthermia (they just get too hot) and also due to their upper respiratory systems.
Hyperthermia occurs when a pet is trapped in an overly hot environment. It could be the car, on the beach, or even just outside in the back yard or inside in a closed, non-air-conditioned room. Their ability to cool themselves by panting, drinking water, and seeking shade is compromised.
Compromised upper airways impact certain breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, and other flat-faced dogs and cats including Persians. This is called being brachycephalic. Some may also have laryngeal paralysis; these issues cause even more trouble removing heat by panting and their extreme panting itself can result in heat stroke.
Be aware of the signs of heat stroke – laboured breathing, excessive panting, increased heart rate, and weakness and drooling. Severe symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, high body temperature and seizures.
Keep your Pet Cool
• Allow your pet to come inside – preferably in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled room with a tiled floor. Keep outdoor time and dog walking to early in the day or in the evening when it is cooler.
• If the ground is too hot for you to hold the back of your hand against it for a period of time, it is too hot for paw pads!
• Always make sure your pet has a shady place to rest, as well as plenty of fresh clean water to drink (refreshed every day). Dogs will even enjoy water with ice added or an ice block to play with. Provide more than one source in case one is spilled, and always put the water in the shade.
• Consider providing a small paddle pool for dogs to play in – just be aware of and comply with water safety for children.
• NEVER leave a pet in a hot car – even under cover or in the shade with a window open. It is too hot and it is dangerous.
• Older pets or those with heart disease, lung disease, or that are overweight must be kept inside a cool home on hot days.
• Trim long hair on pets but don’t trim too short – shaving exposes pets to more heat. Brush cats to remove loose moulting fur.
• Small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and birds are especially susceptible to heat – bring them inside and let them roam free in a bathroom or laundry on cool tiles. Drape cages with wet towels and provide an ice pack or frozen bottle of water to rest against.
• Consider sending your dog to an air conditioned dog day care centre when you can’t be home with him!
Looking after your pet in the heat will keep him happier and healthier.
And remember, autumn is only a few months away…