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As temperatures rose over the weekend, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning pet owners to take extra care of their pets after almost two-thirds of vets reported treating animals affected by heat-related conditions last year.

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found that half of the vets had treated animals for heat stroke (51%) while more than one in three (36%) had seen animals requiring treatment for other conditions relating to hot weather, like breathing difficulties, heart conditions, burnt paw pads and sunburn.

Dogs are unable to sweat like humans making them vulnerable to overheating and even a 20-minute walk in the middle of the day can prove fatal. Flat-faced breeds such as English or French bulldogs and Pugs are at even greater risk, as their short muzzles can make breathing difficult, and therefore cooling down much harder.

In one case, a vet saw a three-year-old, double-coated breed who had overheated and collapsed during a short walk in the hot sun.

The vet commented, “The dog presented with a body temperature of over 43°C, almost 5°C above normal. A team of two vets and six nurses tried active cooling and fluid therapy to save it, but it went into multiple organ failure and all attempts to resuscitate it failed. It devastated the whole team who tried so hard to save the dog.”

Another vet saw a French Bulldog who was unconscious with a temperature above 41C.

“It had been exercised during the early afternoon and was unable to regulate its temperature by panting. Despite aggressive treatment and transfer to a referral centre for intensive care, the dog never regained consciousness and died during the night”, said the vet.

Some breeds of cat and dog with light-coloured or finer-fur may also benefit from pet-friendly sunscreen, especially on the ears which are prone to sunburn.

Like dogs, rabbits also cannot sweat to regulate body temperature and should not be in a hutch or run in direct sunlight and should be inspected for life-threatening ‘flystrike’ around their back end and under their tail during these warmer months. Also, ensure all birds in cages or aviaries have adequate shade.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said, “While most of us look forward to warmer weather, our pets can suffer in high temperatures and humid conditions. Each year, vets across the country report seeing large numbers of cases involving pets who require treatment for heat-related conditions.

“We’re advising owners to take some simple steps to ensure that their much-loved pets also stay happy and healthy this summer. Even relatively lower temperatures at the start and end of a summer day can prove uncomfortable for our pets, especially if they are kept in direct sunlight without any shade.

“Vets know that dogs in particular won’t stop enjoying themselves and exercising because it is hot, so it’s up to owners to do all they can to prevent overheating happening. This includes making sure they aren’t walked or exercised in the middle of a hot day or left inside a hot car or conservatory for even a little while, as ‘not long’ can prove too long.

“If you’re concerned about your pet in the hot weather, we’d recommend contacting your local vet immediately.”

Top tips to keep pets safe in hot weather

The UK, BVA and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) are highlighting eight simple steps to help keep dogs and other pets safe as the temperature rises.

  1. Make sure pets always have adequate fresh water to drink.
  2. Provide adequate ventilation at all times.
  3. Avoid exercising dogs in the heat of the day: especially older dogs, flat-faced breeds or dogs that you know have heart or lung problems.
  4. Provide shade from the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day.
  5. Watch out for early signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting, restlessness and lack of coordination.
  6. Contact a vet immediately if the animal does not respond to efforts to cool it down.
  7. Never leave dogs in vehicles: “Not long” is too long.
  8. If heatstroke or any other heat-related condition is suspected, dogs should be taken to a cool, well-ventilated place and given water to drink while seeking immediate advice from their local vet.

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