Keep your furry friends safe in the heat

Hot weather conjures up images of fun at the beach, lounging in the shade and iced drinks with umbrellas. However really hot weather can be dangerous for those more vulnerable to heat – including pets.

Head Veterinarians at Lort Smith want to remind all pet carers to keep their furry friends cool in the sweltering forecast temperatures across Victoria over the coming weeks.

“Pets most at risk include the very young, senior pets, and those with underlying medical conditions,” said Dr Andrew Kapsis.

“Flat-faced dog breeds, including pugs and bulldogs, are at particular risk of heat stroke as their face shape prevents adequate cooling in hot weather – even when panting,” Dr Kapsis emphasised.

“Animals should not be tethered out in the sun. Importantly, pets should never be left in cars – even for a short time with the windows down. In a car, heat stress and death can occur within minutes.

“If you see an animal locked in a hot car, call 000 and ask for police,” advised Dr Kapsis.

Heat stroke can set in extremely fast in an animal. Pet owners are urged to seek immediate veterinary attention if they spot any signs.

Warning signs of heat stroke in pets include:

  • excessive panting
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • sticky or dry gums and tongue
  • staggering
  • seizures
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting.

If you are concerned a pet has been affected, get them into a cooler environment. Use wet cloths but not iced water to cool them. Also offer the animal water – but don’t force them to drink.

“Even if the animal cools and appears to recover, take them to a vet for a thorough check as internal organs could be affected,” added Dr Kapsis.

Five top tips to protect your pet in the heat:

  • Make sure pets have constant access to cool water and shade, or keep them indoors. Heat stress can develop extremely quickly on hot days.
  • Have more than one source of water and place them in different areas. This is in case one of the bowls is knocked over or the shade disappears – it provides an alternative source of cool water.
  • Avoid walking or exercising your pet on hot days. Instead, walk your dog in the morning when the temperature is the coolest.
  • For smaller animals, such as guinea pigs, a little bag of ice wrapped in small wet towels can provide heat relief. A gentle misting might help birds, as long as it doesn’t stress them.
  • Some dogs will avoid drinking from bowls with floating ice cubes, but you can freeze half-filled bowls and then top them up with cool water before putting them out.