Having just experienced our first summer heat wave, pet owners should have realised how their four-legged, furry companions need to be kept cool to stay healthy and safe.

Unlike us, dogs only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet, which means dogs rely on panting to regulate their body temperature.

MSPCA advises that dogs are at high risk of heatstroke in soaring temperatures. The following measures will help to keep them cool and maintain a healthy body temperature:

• Avoid walking dogs  in the middle of the day. Aim to walk dogs early in the morning or during the evening when it is cooler. It is important that people should be aware that hot pavements can burn pads; if it is too hot to put your hand on the floor, then it is too hot for your dog’s pads.

• Ensure your pet has access to a cool, shaded area at all times.

• Providing your dog with a cooling mat or an ice pack can help them stay cool.

• Some dogs love water and a paddling pool can be a fun way for your dog to cool down. However, if your dog does not like water, it is important not to force them.

• Ensure there is always plenty of drinking water available; adding ice cubes to the water can help.

• Never leave dogs or cats in cars.

• If your dog or cat has a white coat, it is important to apply sun cream, particularly to the tips of their ears and their noses, to prevent sunburn.

Heatstroke is a potentially life-threatening condition which occurs when a dog’s temperature is elevated above the normal range. This can become fatal rapidly if treatment is not urgently provided.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

• Panting excessively;

• Drooling;

• Confusion, agitation and restlessness;

• Vomiting and diarrhoea;

• Red gums and/or tongue.

These can rapidly progress to:

• Little to no urine production;

• Lethargy or collapse;

• Seizures.

Never leave dogs or cats in cars

All dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, however, some are at an increased risk, such as:

• Animals that are overweight;

• Animals with flat faces such as French bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats;

• Large breed dogs;

• Animals with thick coats;

• Very old or very young animals;

• Animals with pre-existing health conditions, in particular heart or lung disease.

Rebecca Hampson, MSPCA’s education manager, stresses that: “If you are concerned that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, it is important to contact your vet immediately as heatstroke is an emergency.”

Here are some measures MSPCA advises owners to take to prevent their dogs’ condition from deteriorating if heatstroke is suspected:

• Place your dog in a cool area immediately and use a fan to cool them down if possible;

• Offer water but do not force them to drink;

• Actively cool with lukewarm water – it is important not to use cold water. Either pour a small amount of water directly onto their fur or place a wet towel on them.

This article has been provided by MSPCA Malta. For more information, e-mail Rebecca Hampson at rebecca@spcamalta.org.

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