Nelspruit is well known for its extremely hot and humid summers. If you are feeling hot and dehydrated today, imagine how it must feel with an extra layer of fur! Since dogs are not as efficient at releasing heat as we are, it’s important to keep your pets cool and hydrated. Heatstroke in pets is a very serious condition and can escalate in a matter of minutes.

Did you know that certain dogs, like flat-faced/ brachycephalic dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers etc), older and overweight dogs are more prone to heatstroke?  Even dogs who enjoy constant exercise and playtime such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Border Collies should be closely monitored for symptoms of heatstroke, especially on hot days.

Knowing how to treat a pet experiencing heatstroke or overheating may be vital to saving your pet’s life. Luckily, it’s not difficult to spot signs of overheating in pets.

Warning signs and common symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke in your pet

  1. Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  2. Increased heart rate
  3. Dehydration (dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting and sunken eyes, if you lift a bit of skin at the back of the neck and it stays up like a tent)
  4. Excessive drooling and thick saliva
  5. Fever (anything over 39.2°C)
  6. Bright red, grey, purple or bluish gums
  7. Lack of urine
  8. Disorientated and dizzy
  9. Vomiting & Diarrhoea (possibly with blood)
  10. Seizures & Unconsciousness

Any signs of heatstroke must be treated as an absolute emergency and the dog must go to the vet immediately 

Treatment of dehydration and heatstroke

  1. Move the dog into the shade
  2. Pour small amounts of room temperature or cool water onto their body (never ice-cold water)
  3. Do not cover him with damp or soaked towels as this will prevent the heat from escaping
  4. Apply cold water or ice packs only under the armpits and groin
  5. Help them to drink small amounts of room temperature water
  6. Once breathing settles, get your pet to the vet urgently
  7. Stroking the ears (from the base to the tip) can help to calm your dog down.

Even if your dog appears to have recovered, it is essential to go straight to a vet.

Prevention and tips to keep your pet cool

  • Provide plenty of shade outside
  • Allow them access to a pool or create a small dog pond for them
  • Hose them down with a gentle spray of water from a hosepipe
  • Gently wipe down your cat with a wet towel
  • Keep the windows open and use a fan/air conditioner indoors
  • Use ice bricks under their beds to keep it cool
  • Freeze their chew toys as a cool toy for them to play with
  • Refrigerate or freeze their wet food as a frosty treat or freeze pieces of food such as chicken in a cube of water as an ice cube treat
  • Some dogs even enjoy licking and chewing on a regular water ice block or chicken or beef broth ice blocks.
  • Don’t encourage play or exercise your pets during hot weather (keep it to early mornings or late evenings)
  • Consider trimming your pet’s fur if it’s long or thick
  • Never, ever, leave your pet in a car!