With the summer months upon us, heat stroke in our pets is a real and present danger. Heat stroke can result in a complete shut-down of metabolic functions and can become fatal in an amazingly short period. There are a few important preventative measures that will hopefully allow your pet to avoid being one of the unhappy victims.

Never leave your pet in a car with the windows closed, no matter how short a period you think you may be away from the vehicle.

Don’t walk your dogs in the heat of the day. Exercise them in the cool of the early     morning or the late evening.

When you do walk your dog during summer, carry some water in a container for him to have a drink along the way. If he  becomes puffy and stressed, be prepared to let him rest for 30 to 60 minutes under the shade of a tree. If there is a tap or other water source available, soak his coat with water- evaporation will cool his body faster than anything else you can do.

If your dog or cat becomes heat-stressed at home and you have air conditioning, use it. If you don’t have air conditioning, cover her with a towel soaked to dripping in cold water, and replace it with another cold water towel when it becomes warm.  Another good way of helping to keep your pet cool is to get him to lie in front of a fan in front of which you have placed a bowl of iced water.

Be particularly careful with smaller animals such as birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. They have a higher metabolic rate than dogs and cats, and they succumb to heat stress much more quickly than other pets do.  On hot days, or days which are predicted to be hot, move pocket pets into the coldest area of the house, preferably with tiled floors, such as the bathroom or the laundry.

Other pets which are especially susceptible to heat stroke are those who are overweight, brachycephalic dogs (those with short noses such as Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers), and   animals with pre-existing cardiac conditions (particularly congestive heart failure).

If your animal does appear to be  heat-stressed, don’t waste time. Cool it down with cold water as quickly as you possibly can and then transport him to the surgery as soon as possible. Intravenous fluids and other emergency treatment can save lives, but only if it is instituted rapidly enough.