As forecasters predict we are heading for a Spring heatwave, vets are warning that pets can struggle as the temperature rises. Dog owners should take extra care to keep their pets healthy and happy in the sunshine and contact their veterinary practice immediately if they are concerned.
Dogs may struggle in high temperatures as they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, rendering them vulnerable to overheating. Despite publicity campaigns in recent years, dogs still die in hot cars every summer or succumb to heatstroke as a result of over-exertion on walks and daytrips. BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey showed that last summer nearly half of all vets (48%) treated animals for conditions related to hot weather.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are highlighting seven simple steps to help keep dogs safe as the temperature rises:
- Don't leave dogs in vehicles.
- Make sure they always have adequate water to drink.
- Provide adequate ventilation at all times.
- Avoid exercising dogs in the heat of the day.
- Provide shade from the sun in the hottest part of the day.
- Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting.
- Contact a vet immediately if the animal does not respond to efforts to cool it down.
Vet John Blackwell, President of the BVA, has some advice for owners as the weather gets warmer. He said:
"As it gets hotter this summer, all owners need to think about taking simple steps to ensure their pets are happy and healthy during the warm weather.
"Most people know that dogs should never be left in cars by themselves, even when the day is warm as opposed to hot, but it can be tempting to ignore advice if you think you won't be gone for long.
"Leaving the car windows open and a bowl of water is not enough. As a dog can only cool down through its tongue and paw pads, it cannot react quickly enough to cope with the rapidly rising heat inside a car.
"Dogs are also vulnerable to heatstroke while out with their owners. I see animals in my practice every summer that have overheated while out walking or exercising. A dog won't stop enjoying itself because it is hot, so it's up to the owner to stop the animal before it suffers.
"Older dogs and those with respiratory problems are particularly susceptible but it's sensible to keep a close eye on any dog on warmer days. The quicker you get help the better the animal's chances of survival."
Detecting overheating early and treating it promptly is essential to dogs recovering successfully. Signs that animals are overheating can include faster and heavier panting, and restlessness, which may include lack of coordination. They might produce more saliva than normal and have darker coloured gums than normal. Eventually their eyes may become glassy and they may start to become unresponsive and may slip into unconsciousness.
If heatstroke is suspected dogs should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated place and given water to drink. Dogs can also be cooled down with a fan or by covering them with a wet towel. Pet owners should get advice from a vet immediately if the dog does not respond promptly.