With temperatures reaching a 10 year high, tarmac roads melting and railway lines buckling last week, no one needs reminding that we are now in high summer. Despite a cooler couple of days this week, forecasters are predicting higher temperatures again next week so it looks like the rest bite will be short.
During the hot weather, very sadly, we have seen several cases of heat stress in pets and some with catastrophic consequences.
While all pets can suffer from heat stress, there are certainly some breeds and types of dogs who are particularly susceptible.
Brachecephalic dogs are breeds with short muzzles such as Pugs, Boxers, Pekanese, Shih Tzus, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Bulldogs. Despite having a shortened muzzle, the soft pallet and tissue in the back of the throat is not shortened so they often have a narrowed airway giving the typical “snuffly” breathing sounds. The restricted airway makes it difficult for these dogs to pant effectively and, since dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin, panting is an essential way for dogs to control their body temperature. All of the dogs that we have recently seen suffering from Heat Stress are brachecephalic breeds.
Awareness of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars during hot weather has increased greatly in recent years due to campaigns by Vets and organisations such as The Dog Trust but the problem is much more widespread than just being confined to vehicles.
None of the dogs we have recently seen have been locked in a car but some have collapsed while out for a walk or even just sunbathing in the garden. Dogs should always have access to shade but it is dangerous to assume that they will make use of the shade. Some dogs need to be physically taken to a shaded place rather than left to their own devices. Always exercise your dog within his own limits and again, think for him. Never exercise in the mid-day heat.
Very sadly, we have seen a couple of dogs who were dead on arrival at the surgery. Those who are less severely affected need very careful management. Obviously their temperature needs to be brought down but this needs to be performed in a very controlled manner to control shock. Dropping the body temperature too quickly can be as dangerous as allowing it to become too high in the first instance.
When dealt with appropriately, Heat Stress can be treated very effectively and we have had some real success stories but our recent experience is a reminder of just how serious this condition can be.
As temperatures climb, please take precautions and if you are concerned that your dog may be becoming over-hot, consult your Vet immediately.
PHOTO: Dennis the Jack Russell on holiday!