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June heatwave: BVA reveals half of UK vets treated pets for heat-related conditions last summer

BVA | British Veterinary Association

4 min read Partner content

As forecasters predict a heatwave in the first week in June, vets are warning that pets can struggle as the temperature rises.

The warning follows findings from the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey that show nearly half of vets (48%) questioned treated animals for conditions related to hot weather during Summer 2014.

More than one in three small/mixed practice vets (36%) had seen cases of heat stroke last  summer, while a similar proportion (31%) had seen animals with other conditions relating to hot weather, including:

Respiratory problems and worsening of  conditions affecting the heart or lungs  (seen by 11% of small animal/mixed practice vets)
Skin conditions (7%)
Fly strike (7%)
Heat stress/ heat exhaustion/ collapse/ lethargy (4%)

Overwhelmingly, vets who had seen heat-related conditions treated dogs, with 9% mentioning small mammals (such as rabbits and guinea pigs), 8% mentioning cats and 4% other animals.

Dog owners should take extra care to keep their pets healthy and happy in the sunshine and contact their veterinary practice immediately if they are concerned

Dogs, and other pet animals, may struggle in high temperatures as they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, rendering them vulnerable to overheating. Despite publicity campaigns in recent years, dogs still die in hot cars every summer or succumb to heatstroke as a result of over-exertion on walks and daytrips – this can be a particular problem in short nosed dogs and older animals.

BVA and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are highlighting seven simple steps to help keep dogs safe as the temperature rises:

Don’t leave dogs in vehicles or conservatories.
Make sure they always have water to drink.
Provide ventilation at all times to prevent the temperature rising.
Avoid exercising dogs in the heat of the day.
Provide shade from the sun in the hottest part of the day.
Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting and profuse salivation.
Contact a vet immediately if the animal does not respond to efforts to cool it down.

Vet John Blackwell, President of the BVA, has some advice for owners as the weather gets warmer. He said:

“As it gets hotter this summer, all owners need to think about taking simple steps to ensure their pets are happy and healthy during the warm weather.

“Most people know that dogs should never be left in cars by themselves, even when the day is warm as opposed to hot, but it can be tempting to ignore advice if you think you won’t be gone for long.

“Leaving the car windows open and a bowl of water is not enough. As a dog can only cool down through its tongue and paw pads, it cannot react quickly enough to cope with the rapidly rising heat inside a car.

“Dogs are also vulnerable to heatstroke while out with their owners. I see animals in my practice every summer that have overheated while out walking or exercising. A dog won’t stop enjoying itself because it is hot, so it’s up to the owner to stop the animal before it suffers.

“Older dogs and those with respiratory problems are particularly susceptible but it’s sensible to keep a close eye on any dog on warmer days. If your pet is affected by the heat the quicker you get help the better the animal’s chances of survival.”

Detecting overheating early and treating it promptly is essential to dogs and other pets recovering successfully. Signs that animals are overheating can include faster and heavier panting, and restlessness, which may include lack of coordination. They might produce more saliva than normal and have darker coloured gums than normal. Eventually their eyes may become glassy and they may start to become unresponsive and may slip into unconsciousness.

Pet owners should immediately get advice from a vet if they are concerned their pet is suffering from a heat-related condition. In addition, if heatstroke is suspected, pets should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated place and given water to drink. Dogs can also be cooled down with a fan or by covering them with a wet towel. However, pet owners should always contact a vet for advice rather than trying to treat on their own an animal who could be suffering from a heat-related condition.

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