Heading into the Australian summer, it’s not just our own safety we have to think about. The truth is, animals don’t have the same cooling systems as we do (such as sweat) and can easily get overheated. In severe cases, this can lead to death. However, the best cure is prevention, which involves creating the right environment, and understanding the causes and signs of heatstroke.
Whether you’re already a pet owner, planning to get a pet before summer starts, or thinking of gifting a cat for Christmas, here’s the rundown on which breeds of cats and dogs are most at risk, and how to help them properly keep their cool.
How to keep your furry friend cool
Owning a pet is one of life’s biggest joys, but just like having a child, it’s also a huge responsibility. Loving them is more than just giving pats and cuddles – it’s about keeping them safe at all costs, particularly in the summer months. Firstly, it’s important to understand the main causes of heatstroke. These include:
- Warm/hot, humid environment with inadequate ventilation (such as a unventilated room or car)
- Inadequate shade
- Not enough drinking water
- Excessive exercise
The good news? You can easily help prevent heatstroke by creating the right environmental conditions, and fully understanding the symptoms. So to help your best friend stay cool this summer, make sure the space they spend most of their time in is ventilated and they have plenty of drinking water.
For outdoor pets, make sure they always have access to shade – no matter what time of day it is. Don’t ever leave your pet in a car, even on mild days, and avoid over-exercising them in hot weather. One more thing – avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no shade about.
So what does heatstroke look like? As hard as we try to keep our pets safe, sometimes the heat can be overbearing. Here are some symptoms you need to look out for:
- Excessive panting and breathing difficulties
- Drooling and salivating
- Agitation and restlessness
- Very red or pale gums
- Increased heart rate
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Confusion and delirium
- Seizures and collapsing
If you suspect heatstroke in your pet, immediately get them to a cool environment, spray cool water (not iced) on their skin and fur, and take them to a vet immediately. Don’t forget – heatstroke is an emergency and should never be ignored.
Breeds most at risk
Your pet’s lifestyle is just as important as yours. So it’s important to consider the environment you live in and how active you expect them to be. The fact is, certain breeds of cats and dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than others. So if you and your pet are planning to have some fun in the Australian sun, do your research into which breeds can handle the heat better than others.
When it comes to dogs, the breeds that are most vulnerable are those with short noses, broad skulls, and structural issues with their upper respiratory system. These include:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
While any cat can develop heatstroke, it’s also the flat-faced breeds (brachycephalic) that are most prone, such as:
These breeds (in both cats and dogs) are even more at risk if they’re very old, very young, sick or obese, have medical conditions, or are pregnant and nursing.
Just remember, our pets rely on us to keep them safe and comfortable. Heatstroke is one of the biggest problems facing our furry friends, particularly in the Aussie summer. So get up to speed on the causes of heatstroke, how to prevent it, what to look out for, and what to do if your pet’s in trouble.
This article was written by Shay de Silva. Shay is a deep thinker, an avid lover of animals and sucks at Goldeneye. Since he's been able to put crayon to paper, there's nothing Shay has loved more than telling a good story. He enjoys inspiring readers on the subjects of healthy living, self-improvement and making a difference.