Community News

Heat and dogs

Dr Karen Teasdale from Angourie Road Vet Clinic provides advice on the best ways to look after your “best friend” during hot summer days

Summer days are upon us, but luckily, we have some control over our surroundings. But what if you had no ability to control your environmental temperature, and your ability to alter your body temperature was also compromised?  Dogs are designed to lose heat by evaporation through panting.

But what if panting to lose heat got you nowhere?  You’d be a prime candidate for heat stroke – and that’s the exact sad situation that some pets face.

Brachycephalics, or patients with “squishy” faces, such as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Frenchies, have particular trouble in the heat. This is because they have been bred to have compressed faces, and this cosmetic appearance has many effects on their ability to cool down. 

Most people are familiar with the snorting sounds that squishy-face animals make. 

These noises arise from the way their throats and faces are shaped, including narrowed nostrils, an enlarged tongue, narrow windpipe, and elongated soft palate (where the roof of the mouth “bunches up” and flops loosely into the throat, obstructing normal breathing). Many brachycephalics have to work so hard to breathe that pockets of tissue in the throat will actually turn inside-out – further obstructing normal airflow.

All these airway issues breathing on a good day, but during a hot day the patient will pant harder in an attempt to lose heat. This excessive panting causes the tissues of the nose and throat to swell, further reducing airflow and hindering heat loss, so the patient pants harder, until overheating occurs and, in some cases, death.

How to keep your pets safe from heat during summer:

*     Discuss a hot weather management plan with your vet, ESPECIALLY if you have a squishy-face breed.

*     Allow pets access to air conditioning or fans inside the house, or make sure their outside area is shaded

*     Allow access to fresh, cool water at all times

*     Consider a kid’s wading pool for your pet to play in

*     Walk your pets at dawn and dusk, or during the coolest part of the day.

*     NEVER leave a dog in the car!

If you suspect heatstroke, check temperature (normal rectal temperature 38.5 to 39.5C) and begin to cool them down with wet towels over the back of the neck, armpits and in the groin region. A fan directed on these areas will help speed cooling. You can also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water, and get to a vet ASAP.

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