Australia’s hot summer months are welcomed by most and can be a lot of fun for our furry pals, with trips to the beach, walks in the sunshine and some much-enjoyed grass time.
Unfortunately, the summer also brings with it extreme temperatures and can increase the risk of our pets suffering from deadly heatstroke.
Heatstroke is a process where an animal’s body starts to shut down due to an excessively high temperature, and can be caused by a number of factors including hot weather, high humidity, lack of drinking water, obesity, and overexertion.
It can be deadly, with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, and chinchillas all frequent victims of heatstroke.
The symptoms of heatstroke in most species are the same. They include quick breathing, heavy panting, constant drinking, a high body temperature, heightened pulse and heartbeat, and excessive drooling.
It’s important to be vigilant in watching for these symptoms in high temperatures because once your pet’s body temperature reaches a certain point – the danger point is different for each species – the chance of survival is very slim.
Preventing heatstroke is very simple. For dogs and cats, make sure they have a constant supply of water and have shaded houses or places they can rest in. It is also a good idea to bring them inside in extreme heatwaves and switch on the air conditioner or the fan.
Never leave your pet alone in your car in summer and avoid exercising your dog or cat in the middle of the day – wait until it is cooler in the evening.
For small animals like bunnies and guinea pigs, avoid giving them grass time outside in extreme temperatures – the early morning or late afternoon are the best times.
It is also a bad idea to leave them in outdoor hutches in the summer months. While this may be okay in places like the UK, in Australia they should be housed indoors with access to water, air conditioning or a fan. If you know it is going to be a particularly hot day, putting a frozen ice brick in their cage can give them a place to cool themselves as well.
Treating heatstroke really depends on what animal you own and what condition they are in, but in all species heatstroke is life threatening so you need to take your pet to a vet as soon as possible.
In the event that you can’t get your pet to a vet, you must not submerge them in cold water. This can cause your pet’s body to go into shock. Instead, cool your pet with lukewarm water and if you are able to get your pet to drink, let them sip small amounts. If you have pet-specific hydralytes, these can also help.
Make sure your pet stays in a cool area and stay with it until you can find a vet.
Heatstroke is a very cruel and painful death for animals and is something that is completely avoidable. These tips will help you protect your pets and keep them cool this summer.