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Vets issue hot weather warning as temperatures soar

03 Jun 2019 | Exotics | Companion animals | Animal health


As temperatures soar across the UK, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning pet owners to take extra care of their pets after almost two-thirds of vets (64%) reported treating animals being affected by heat-related conditions during last summer’s record-breaking heat.

As temperatures soar across the UK, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning pet owners to take extra care of their pets after almost two-thirds of vets (64%) reported treating animals being affected by heat-related conditions during last summer’s record-breaking heat.

BVA’s Autumn 2018 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found that half of the vets had treated animals for heat stroke (51%) while more than one in three (36%) had seen animals requiring treatment for other conditions relating to hot weather, like breathing difficulties, heart conditions, burnt paw pads and sunburn.

Dogs may particularly struggle to stay cool in high temperatures and humid conditions since, unlike humans, they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, making them vulnerable to overheating. Flat-faced breeds such as English or French bulldogs and Pugs are at even greater risk, as their short muzzles can make breathing difficult, and therefore cooling down much harder.

Even a 20-minute walk in the middle of the day can prove to be fatal. One vet in BVA’s survey mentioned seeing a three-year-old, double-coated breed last May who had overheated and collapsed after a 20-minute walk in the hot sun. “The dog presented with a body temperature of over 43°C, almost 5°C above normal. A team of two vets and six nurses tried active cooling and fluid therapy to save it, but it went into multiple organ failure and all attempts to resuscitate it failed. It devastated the whole team who tried so hard to save the dog,” the vet wrote.

Another vet saw a French Bulldog who was presented to the clinic unconscious, with a temperature above 41°C: “It had been exercised during the early afternoon and was unable to regulate its temperature by panting. Despite aggressive treatment and transfer to a referral centre for intensive care, the dog never regained consciousness and died during the night.”

Like dogs, rabbits cannot sweat or pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down, which is why it’s important that their hutch or run isn’t exposed to direct sunlight at any time of the day. Flystrike is also a life-threatening risk for them in the warmer months, so daily inspection around their back end and under their tail is essential. Seek veterinary advice immediately if you see any maggots.

Some breeds of cats and dogs, particularly those with lighter-coloured or finer fur, may benefit from appropriate sun cream in hot weather, especially on the ears, which are prone to sunburn. Consult with your local vet to ensure you are providing the right protection in the right place. 

Likewise take care to ensure birds in cages or aviaries are not exposed to direct sun and have adequate shade.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“While most of us look forward to warmer weather, our pets can suffer in high temperatures and humid conditions. Each year, vets across the country report seeing large numbers of cases involving pets who require treatment for heat-related conditions.

“We’re advising owners to take some simple steps to ensure that their much-loved pets also stay happy and healthy this summer. Even relatively lower temperatures at the start and end of a summer day can prove uncomfortable for our pets, especially if they are kept in direct sunlight without any shade.

“Vets know that dogs in particular won’t stop enjoying themselves and exercising because it is hot, so it’s up to owners to do all they can to prevent overheating happening. This includes making sure they aren’t walked or exercised in the middle of a hot day or left inside a hot car or conservatory for even a little while, as ‘not long’ can prove too long.

“If you’re concerned about your pet in the hot weather, we’d recommend contacting your local vet immediately.”

With more scorching temperatures forecast across the UK, BVA and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association are highlighting eight simple steps to help keep dogs and other pets safe as the temperature rises.

Hot weather top tips:

  • Make sure pets always have adequate fresh water to drink.
  • Provide adequate ventilation at all times.
  • Avoid exercising dogs in the heat of the day: especially older dogs, flat-faced breeds or dogs that you know have heart or lung problems.
  • Provide shade from the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day.
  • Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, restlessness and lack of coordination.
  • Contact a vet immediately if the animal does not respond to efforts to cool it down.
  • Never leave dogs in vehicles: “Not long” is too long.
  • If heatstroke or any other heat-related condition is suspected, dogs should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated place and given water to drink while seeking immediate advice from their local vet.


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