How to tell if your pet has heatstroke - and how to keep them cool this summer

Publish Date
Monday, 1 January 2024, 8:00AM
While your furry friend might love a trip to the beach, the sun can pose some risks. Photo / 123rf

While your furry friend might love a trip to the beach, the sun can pose some risks. Photo / 123rf

The weather is finally starting to heat up - but while you probably can’t wait to bask in the sun, it’s not such good news for your beloved pets.

Dogs, cats and various other furry friends all face the risk of heat stroke, dehydration, or even burned paws in high temperatures. They don’t sweat in the same way we humans do and they’re also covered in fur, which doesn’t help.

Pet insurance company PD Insurance COO Michelle Le Long says there have already been cases of pet heatstroke in New Zealand this summer.

“Thankfully, [they’re] happy and healthy today, but unfortunately that’s not always the case because heatstroke can cause organ failure and sadly lead to the beloved pet passing away,” she says.

“Even if your pet survives, it’s a very stressful and unpleasant experience for both pet and parent. Prevention is always better than cure, so we should all take time to revisit the steps to pet summer safety.”

So, how do you protect your pets from the sun this summer - and what are the symptoms of heatstroke to look out for? PD Insurance has shared a few tips.

Make sure pets don’t dehydrate

Keep your pets’ water bowls topped up and make sure there’s a cool spot for them to rest in the shade.

Don’t walk your pets in high temperatures

You wouldn’t want to go for a run if it’s boiling hot outside, and neither does your dog. Instead, take them for a walk either early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cool.

Avoid hot roads, sand, and pavement

Your pet can’t pop their jandals on when they leave the house, so don’t let them walk on the roads, footpaths or the beach if they’re hot to touch. They could burn their paws and need a trip to the vet.

Don’t leave your pet in the car

We all know not to leave the kids in a parked car - so don’t do it to your pets. Left in the sun with the windows up, cars heat up so quickly during summer that your pet could start to suffer within minutes. It could also land you a hefty fine.

Slip, slop, slap some sunscreen on your pets

Any pet can get sunburnt and short-hair or hairless breeds like Dalmatians or Sphynx are particularly vulnerable. You can use sunscreen formulated especially for pets and make sure they’re not out in the sun for too long at a time.

Turn down the heat

Dog breeds like pugs, bulldogs or Boston terriers aren’t able to pant as well as other dogs, so they might need some help cooling down. You can pop them in a cold shower, put their mat or dog bed next to the aircon, or even buy them a pet cooling mat. For long-haired and fluffy cats and dogs, brushing their fur more often can help keep their coats under control.

What are the symptoms of pet heatstroke?

Pets that are overheating might have trouble breathing, pant excessively, have a raised heart and respiratory rate, appear unusually weak or “out of it”, drool more than usual, or even collapse.

More serious symptoms include blood in diarrhoea, vomit or seizures, as well as a body temperature of over 40 degrees.

If you notice these symptoms, cool your pet down, offer them water and head straight to the vet.

Take care around water

Your dog might love a dip at the beach, in the river or a lake, but they pose some dangers too.

Cooling down in large bodies of water can land your pet in trouble if they’re caught in a rip or current or overtire themselves from swimming, just like your human family members - so it’s important to keep an eye on them at all times.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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