Beware of Heat Stress in your Pet

During the recent midwest heatwave, the sweltering heat in Geraldton has resulted in a number of cases of heat stress in both dogs and cats, coming into Sanford Veterinary Clinic. This condition without treatment can be potentially fatal.

Heat Stress Can KillOur human body is extremely well adapted to getting rid of excess heat. It does this by sweating all over a largely hairless skin surface. This is very efficient at cooling our bodies even when exercising in hot temperatures.  Our pets on the other hand have much less efficient cooling systems and are at a far greater risk of heat stress.  Owners are often surprised at the speed that heat stress kills their pet even though they are not themselves under duress.

Heat stress occurs when your pet is unable to regulate a normal body temperature in hot weather. Dogs rely on panting to cool down and the movement of air over their moist tongue helps to do this. Cats cool down by licking themselves over their extremities, which cools the body as the saliva evaporates. If your pet becomes dehydrated, their saliva production is greatly reduced and they can no longer cool effectively. Heat stress is not far away.

Initial signs of heat stress may include excessive panting, bright red/pink gums, weakness, lethargy and vomiting. Your pet’s heart rate may also be greatly increased. If not treated and the body temperature is not reduced irreversible damage to the brain (causing seizures and coma) and body organs (causing kidney, heart and liver failure) can also occur and may be fatal. Your pet may be at an increased risk of heat stress if very young, very old, overweight or not used to exercise or being outside. They may also be at risk if they are suffering from diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease or neurological.

Preventing heat stress is by far the best treatment. Keeping your pet indoors with air conditioning is ideal, but not always practical. If not able to do this, then providing plenty of shade and copious amounts of clean fresh water outside is imperative. Be sure that the water containers cannot be knocked over. Frozen water bottles are also helpful. Avoid exercise during the heat of the day, and most importantly check on your pet frequently if they are outside for long periods. Never leave your pet in a hot house, shed or vehicle. Long haired pets can be clipped during the summer months.

If your pet is suffering from heat stress it should be seen by Sanford Veterinary Clinic immediately. Transport the dog on wet towels, with ice packs placed in the groin and arm pits.

Dr Alison Banfield, Sanford Veterinary Clinic Geraldton

 

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