Protect your pets from the heat

Published 10:00am 22 November 2022

Protect your pets from the heat
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

With the weather starting to heat up, RSPCA Queensland is reminding pet owners to never leave their animals in parked cars and ensure they have access to ample shade and water at home.

The warning comes after RSPCA Queensland received 70 reports of animals in heat distress from concerned members of the public in October.

Of that number, 13 reports were from the Moreton Bay Region, including a mixture of animals left alone in a hot car or left without shade and water.

Steffi Schubert, who is the RSPCA Queensland Inspectorate Team Leader for the Central Zone, says it only takes a few minutes for tragedy to strike.

"It can take six minutes for a dog to become heat stressed and die when left in a hot vehicle,” Steffi says.

“If you’re needing to be out for longer periods of time, the safest place for your dog to be is at home with shade and water.

“What might seem like a quick stop at the shopping centre could turn into a long time, especially during the silly season, and your dog may suffer the consequence.

"It is frustrating to hear the reason an animal is often left in a car is because the pet enjoys the car ride.”

When leaving your pets at home, it is important to remember they have access to clean water every day and a place to lay out of the sun.

"Owners often underestimate how quickly an animal can become heat stressed- if leaving your pet unattended during hot weather, it is important to ensure they have ample shade, water and are not in danger of becoming tangled, even if you are only leaving the house for a short period of time,” Steffi says.

“By the time an animal is heat stressed, even if they are still alive when found, their organs have suffered irreparable damage as a result they cannot be saved.

"All too often Inspectors are called to a dog which has been tethered in the sun and by the time they get there it is too late.”

Thankfully, Steffi has some handy and fun tips to help pet owners ensure their animals are cool and comfortable during the warmer days.

"There are plenty of fun ways to keep your pet cool over the summer and also keep them entertained including frozen kongs, ice blocks with frozen treats inside and a small kiddie pool for splash in, as well as providing pet cooling mats or vests."

Protect your pets from the heat

Heat stress symptoms

As dogs are unable to sweat, they cool themselves down by panting, lying on cool surfaces and drinking cool water.

Here are some of the symptoms dog owners should be on the lookout for:

  • Panting
  • Seeking a cool/shady spot
  • Excessive salivation
  • Enlarging tongue
  • Red gums/lips
  • Increasing heart rate
  • Anxious or distressed demeanour
  • Staggering

If the animal’s high temperature is not relieved the animal’s condition quickly worsens. The animal may start to display more severe symptoms of heat stress which include:

  • Very rapid heart rate
  • Circulation shutdown
  • Trembling/seizures/falling down
  • Respiratory distress
  • Vomit with blood
  • Diarrhoea with blood
  • Coma

If you suspect your animal is suffering from heat stress, prompt action is required.

First aid measures should be applied quickly, and the animal must then be transported to a veterinarian immediately.

Cool the animal down before transporting them. This can be done by bathing the animal in cool (not cold) water, applying ice packs to the groin and underarm area, or placing them in front of a fan or in an air-conditioned room.

You should also give your animal clean, fresh water to bring their temperature down.

Once the animal is cool always take them to the vet as they may have internal damage from the heat stress.

The RSPCA’s top tips for keeping pets cool

  • Provide ample shade for your pets in the backyard and multiple water sources.
  • Never leave pets tethered in backyards – they can get tangled, leaving them unable to reach water and shade.
  • Keep pet playtime and daily walks to early morning and late afternoon. Avoid hot bitumen for doggy paw pads!
  • Never leave pets unattended in cars – cars turn into ovens within a matter of minutes.
  • Make sure dogs in utes have shade, water, and cannot burn their feet on hot trays.
  • Keep careful eye on brachycephalic (flat face) breeds as they are prone to overheating.
  • Make sure your livestock, hens and horses all have shade and water too.
  • Move small pet enclosures for birds, guinea pigs and fish, out of the direct sun.

You can also leave out containers of water to help native wildlife.

Contact the RSPCA

If you see an animal in distress, contact the RSPCA’s 24/7 Animal Emergency Hotline 1300 ANIMAL.

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