Western Living Magazine
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Including signs of heat stroke and how to prevent it.
I have a little black dog who absorbs heat and often doesn’t have the good sense to even lie in the shade when it’s sunny, so I’ve been looking for strategies to keep him cool in this heat wave. I got some tips from retired Vancouver veterinarian, Dr. Paul Koit, who also pointed me towards the SPCA’s website. Below is a mix of knowledge from the two, starting with signs of heat stroke in your cat or dog, and then tips on how to prevent it.
Please note that all the photos in this post were taken of my dog, pre-heat wave. He’s currently banned from outside except for bathroom activities.
Signs of heat stroke include panting, increased heart rate, disorientation, stupor, coma or semi-coma. Your pet may also bleed from the nose or anus. If these signs are present, especially the last two, you should take your pet to the vet immediately—only about 50% of animals presented with heat stroke to vet clinics will survive, even with intensive care. According to Dr. Koit, heat stroke is more common in overweight or obese animals, as well as large dog breeds and brachycephalic dogs (like pugs, bulldogs, etc.—the squished ones). But it can happen to any kind of pet, so use the tips below to prevent it.
An obvious but important first tip—as much as we might think our dogs or cats need fresh air, indoors is the safest place for them right now. Even a short walk or game of fetch outdoors could give your pet heat stroke in this kind of weather, so keep outside time to the absolute minimum—being cooped up is better than overheating. If you have a basement or lower level of your home, encourage your pet to hang out there.
Provide as much shade as possible for your pet to sleep in. If you have a fan, point it towards their bed or favourite spot on the couch.
Again, this is counterintuitive to most rules of pet ownership. But these are unpawcedented times. Don’t play with or walk your pet during the day, and be extra vigilant on evening walks for signs of heat stroke.
This is a tip from the SPCA – put some treats in a bowl of water (or chicken stock if you want to get extra fancy) and freeze it. It’s the cheapest icy snack you’ll find in this city, for sure.
If you do need to take your pet outdoors, filling up a kiddie pool, large plastic bin or even a bucket with cool water is a great way to let your pet have a little fun while regulating their temperature. Try to keep playtime low-key—encouraging your pet to lie down in the water, mermaid (mermutt)-style. If you don’t have a pool, simply spraying water on your pet with a hose works.
These are more long-term tips, but giving your thick-coated dog or cat a good brush will help keep them more comfortable during this time. And, as mentioned before, obesity is a large contributor to heat stroke—keeping your pet healthy and strong will make them less miserable in warm weather.
No, it doesn’t matter if it’s shady. No, it doesn’t matter if you have the window cracked. And no, it doesn’t matter if it’s only for a few minutes. Don’t leave your pet in a hot car. Ever. It’s a death sentence for them. It’s also great way to end up on the news and having to delete yourself from all social media. Don’t do it.
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