When the weather heats up, it’s crucial we take care of the most vulnerable members of our family. Just like the very young and the very old, your pets are extremely susceptible to heat stress and heatstroke. The effects of heatstroke can be even worse on animals, many of whom struggle to thermoregulate under thick coats.

Whatever breed or species your friend is, they’re at risk. So it’s important to know how to recognise heat stress in your specific animal, as each pet will express their discomfort differently. Whether you’re out an about on a walk with your dog, or at home with your rats, guinea pigs or cat, be vigilant.

dog1 What to look for

Everyone knows dogs pant, but if it seems excessive, your friend may be becoming a bit uncomfortable. In this case, move them to a cooler spot, or immerse their feet in cool water or place wet rags on their bodies if it persists. Often this is from ambient temperature – whether it’s a hot car or just a hot day, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes the issue can simply be the temperature of the ground.

If you’re out for a walk and it’s 35 degrees, get a picture for how your dog feels by taking off your shoes and trying to carry on as normal. Pretty uncomfortable, right? Dogs don’t get the benefit of footwear, so be aware that the 5km walk you always wanted to do is not a good idea on a warm day.

If in doubt, put the back of your hand on the ground. Too hot? Exercise your dog indoors or in a well-shaded area, giving plenty of water. If they’re unwilling to stand, have dark red gums or seem disorientated, get them to Animal Emergency Service immediately.

Cats become restless when overheated and they begin looking for a cool spot. Look for panting for distress, and rapid pulse/breathing, vomiting and stumbling for acute heat exhaustion. For distress, simply give plenty of water and move them to a cooler space. For the worst case scenario – unconsciousness – apply cool water to their bodies, keeping it away from their head and face, and immediately call our team. It is important that you do not hesitate to contact an emergency service, if these symptoms are occuring for more than five minutes.

Guinea pigs and rats are doubly vulnerable to heatstroke, being unable to sweat or pant to cool themselves and being confined to a small enclosure. It’s your responsibility to check the weather ahead of time, moving their crate to a cool spot in your home and potentially setting up a fan to circulate air around them. Other options include draping a damp cloth or towel over their enclosure, and giving them ice packs wrapped in tea towels to sit on or near. As with all animals, make sure they have enough water!

Play it safe and keep it cool

With a little bit of planning and forethought, you’ll be breezing through heatwaves without a worry. Take the time to get yourself set up this summer and spend those sunny days enjoying the weather with your loved ones, not worrying about them.

Some weather-watching and a bit of creative thinking can mean you can enjoy all of your usual activities with your pets in a healthy and positive environment.

Stuck for dog exercise ideas? Play tug-of-war, or piggy-in-the-middle by having you and one or multiple friends or family call your dog over. They’ll be just as tired as if you went for a long walk, and they’ll be a lot safer.

If your pet is showing abnormal signs (such as any of those mentioned above) for more than five minutes, it is critical that you seek veterinary assistance immediately. If you’re at all unsure, please do not hesitate to contact us. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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