There are few pleasures in life greater than taking your pup and heading outdoors for some fun in the sun. Just remember though, like humans, dogs can be greatly affected by the heat. At South Eastern Animal Hospital we often have pets being brought in by distraught owners who were unaware their dogs were suffering from heatstroke until it was almost too late. These aren’t bad or neglectful pet owners – they just didn’t know what symptoms to watch out for – as some of them are more subtle than others…
Heatstroke can develop very quickly, and you don’t need to have spent hours in the hot sun for it to happen. In fact, a dog can die from heatstroke in as little as 6 minutes. Several areas of Australia are already experiencing temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius, and experts say that while 2016 was the 4th hottest year on record, 2017 is set to smash through last year’s figures.
Most pet owners can use their common sense to recognise the most common symptoms of heatstroke to watch out for – excessive panting, signs of mental and physical distress/discomfort, dizziness and fainting as well as digestive upsets. You will also know that very young/old or sick dogs, dogs with short noses and flat faces and heavy coated dogs will be especially vulnerable.
Symptoms you might not realise are related to heatstroke is the presence of thick and sticky saliva, a bright red tongue and gums, muscle tremors and breathing distress. The last of these is particularly relevant, as high temperatures in Australia are frequently accompanied by poor air quality, with car exhaust fumes and industrial emissions intensifying in hot weather.
The best way to avoid heatstroke is not to wait until even the mildest symptom appears, but rather to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. You can do this by never leaving your dog in a car, avoiding going outdoors during the hottest hours of the day and making sure your dog has a well ventilated and shaded area to relax in. As much as possible, avoid harnessing or leashing your dog and make sure they have access to fresh cool water at all times.