Keeping pets safe
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Keeping pets safe

An expert shares tips on how to stop your furry friends suffering heat stroke

Keeping pets safe
Asst Prof Dr Tilladit Rung-ruangkijkrai.

Due to the unusually high temperatures this year, people are not the only ones suffering as pets also have difficulty dealing with hot weather. Recently, a viral video of a French bulldog collapsing because of heat stroke raised concerns. The owner of the dog told media over the phone that she had let the dog out to urinate. After the dog returned, it was panting and then collapsed and had seizures. She later took the dog to see a vet and it was said to have suffered from heat stroke.

Although the weather in Bangkok is starting to cool down, many provinces around the country are still muggy with high temperatures, especially during the day. Asst Prof Dr Tilladit Rung-ruangkijkrai, director of the Chulalongkorn University Council Office and lecturer at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, expressed concern that pets confined in cages or tied up are at risk of heat stroke.

“Heat stroke is a loss of consciousness caused by high temperature or hot weather. We don’t have data indicating an increase of heat stroke in pets this year compared to last year, but with high temperatures, heat stroke in pets is more likely,” said Asst Prof Dr Tilladit.

“Dogs and cats are more susceptible to heat stroke than people because their bodies are covered with fur. People can release heat through breathing and sweat. When people sweat, it evaporates off the skin which helps decrease body temperature. However, dogs have fewer sweat glands. To release body heat, they usually pant heavily with their tongue hanging out. Cats have more sweat glands than dogs, but still fewer than people. Like dogs, they also pant to release body heat. 

“In addition to hot weather, the body temperature of dogs and cats can increase if they are tied up or confined in a cage directly in sunlight, or overexert themselves. These conditions can make dogs and cats suffer heat stroke. Some owners leave their pets in the car and go shopping thinking it is only for a short time, but this can cause heat stroke.”

People may wonder if a specific breed is at higher risk than others. Asst Prof Dr Tilladit explained that breed is of no relevance regarding heat stroke, but dogs and cats with thick and long hair tend to have higher risk. Additionally, heat stroke can be severe if it happens with elderly, chubby, or long-haired pets, and also flat-faced dogs like pugs or bulldogs.

Some owners take great care of their pets, so they recognise warning signs. In the case of heat stroke in pets, those signs include panting hard, breathing fast, and red gums and tongues, staggering, restlessness, drooling, bulging eyes, vomiting or diarrhoea, and collapsing or losing consciousness.

Asst Prof Dr Tilladit suggested that pet owners provide first aid the moment the animal starts panting fast and staggering.

“Pet owners should immediately move their pets from high temperature areas to a well-ventilated space. Turn on a fan or air conditioner to help them release heat. Remove any clothes or collars and immediately take them to see a vet,” Asst Prof Dr Tilladit said.

“On the way to see a vet, owners should try to reduce their pets’ temperature by wiping them with a damp towel, giving them a bath or putting cold packs on their joints, stomach, head or groin. Use a thermometer to measure their body temperature every five to 10 minutes to see if it decreases. If the pet is still conscious, give it water to drink. However, if pets experience unconsciousness, don’t force water because they can choke and possibly die.” 

Since heat stroke can lead to death, it is better to take preventative measures. Asst Prof Dr Tilladit recommends owners keep their pets in a well-ventilated space. If pets are tied up or in a cage, it should be in a shady, spacious area.

“Owners should avoid confining their pets in high temperature areas or areas with concrete, rock or sand. Amid hot weather, owners should not push their pets to exercise too much, especially if they are at a higher risk of heat stroke, such as if they have heart or respiratory problems or if they are overweight or getting on in years,” he said.

“During hot weather, always provide enough clean water. Don’t leave pets in a car because despite parking in the shade, the temperature in the car can rapidly increase. If your dog needs to wear a muzzle, it shouldn’t be worn for long.”

Besides heat stroke, hot weather can lead to diseases including gastrointestinal infection and dermatitis in pets.

“Since high temperatures can cause food to spoil easily, homemade food for pets should not be left outdoors for many hours. If pets eat rotten food, it can cause gastrointestinal infection or diarrhoea,” Asst Prof Dr Tilladit said.

“Dermatitis is another problem that can be found during summer. Because of hot weather, dogs enjoy playing in water or often lick their paws. This make their paws continually wet and can lead to dermatitis. If owners see dogs excessive scratching, they should take dogs to see a vet to diagnose the condition.”

Besides dogs and cats, other pets such as hamsters or rabbits can suffer heat stroke.

“Heat stroke can also happen with furry pets like hamsters and rabbits, but less than dogs and cats because they usually stay in a cage in their owner’s house and are not in direct sunlight. However, if the temperature in the house is high, they can be affected by heat and suffer. Placing them in a shady, well-ventilated location in the house is advised. Other precautions are the same as those for dogs and cats. Following those previous instructions can help prevent your pet experiencing heat stroke,” said Asst Prof Dr Tilladit.

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