Heatstroke is one of the most catastrophic, and yet easily preventable, conditions that dogs can suffer from. Dogs can't sweat and they cool by panting; they are often so eager to please and will continue to play until their bodies can't take any more. So pet owners need to watch for signs of heatstroke such as heavy panting and act quickly.
Days with temperatures over 30 degrees brings an increased risk of heatstroke, and the higher the temperature, the harder it is for dogs to cool down. Some dogs that can be at higher risk of overheating are the short-nosed breeds such as bulldogs that have existing airway abnormailities, older dogs that may have some structural changes to their throat, and dogs that have recently moved to hotter climates and haven't had time to adjust.
Cats are generally more sensible and are only likely to get heat stroke if left locked in a hot environment like a car.
When a dog overheats they essentially cook internally and the cells within their body break down. Heatstroke can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, bleeding disorders and even brain damage. These signs can show quickly or even take a few days to become apparent.
Heatstroke can be avoided by:
- Avoiding any activity in the middle of the day. Go walking in the cool of the early morning or late evening instead.
- Providing lots of fresh drinking water
- Providing ice blocks and paddling pools to cool down with
- Having the air conditioning on in the car or having the windows down while driving
- NEVER leave your pets in the hot car!
- Consider a full body clip for long haired or thick coated breeds.
If you see your dog collapse, panting heavily or breathing strangely, first cool them down by wetting or hosing them over for 5 minutes before taking them to the vet, then drive to the vet with the windows down or with the air con on as this can increase their chances of survival.