As summer is approaching it usually means more trips to the beach and getting an awesome tan. However, it can also be a time for heat stress and heatstroke in animals.
Heat stress is a dangerous condition caused by a severely elevated core body temperature. In extreme cases, this can be life-threatening. Our pets aren’t as efficient at releasing heat from their bodies as we are and may heat up faster than us. Dogs only have sweat glands in their feet and cool down by panting. Cats cool themselves down by grooming themselves frequently in order to keep their coat damp. Our smaller pets, like guinea pigs - tend to use their ears as their temperature control. And as for birds they have no sweat glands and cool themselves by rapid breathing with their mouths open and by holding their wings out slightly from their bodies.
Signs of heat stress in our animals include: increase in breathing and panting, initially appearing restless followed by lethargy, bright red gums, a rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, muscle tremors and possibly seizures.
So how can we help to keep our pets cool?
Provide your dogs with a paddling pool (like a clamshell that you can get from Bunnings!)
Cats can be wiped over with a damp cloth.
Birds may like to be sprayed with water, using a misting nozzle.
Place damp towels over your guinea pig hutches, so the breeze gives them cool air.
Always ensure they have plenty of drinking water.
Only exercise your pets early in the morning, or very late evening. Being mindful not to over-exercise.
It is also important to keep in mind obese pets and certain breeds like brachycephalic (our little squishy face friends) are more likely to tire out first or are unable to regulate heat effectively.
If you are concerned about your pet and see any of these signs, they need to be cooled down gradually. Remove them from the heat source, wrap them in a damp towel and transport them to your vet immediately.