Take precautions with pet in hot weather

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The holidays are over but pets are still in danger as we move into the hotter summer months, advises the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA).

“As the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has predicted above average temperatures for the coming three months, it’s important for pet owners to understand that their animals are still in danger of heat-related ailments,” said Dr Cath Watson of NZVA’s Companion Animal Society.

Warnings about dogs in hot cars are commonplace throughout the holiday season, but such advice needed to carry right through to autumn.

“Even with windows slightly open, temperatures inside cars will soar,” said Dr Watson.

Dog owners should avoid excessive exercise on hot days, and where possible, walk dogs before the sun comes up, and after it goes down.

“Do it at an easy pace – if temperatures are in the 20s or higher don’t take your dog running,” said Dr Watson. Excessive panting or exhaustion are signs dog owners should immediately stop exercising their pet and return them to shade and water.

Heatstroke may occur in hot conditions or when an animal has a lack of shade, air circulation and/or water, or is in extreme humidity.

“Dogs can only lose heat through their paws (they don’t sweat like us) or by panting – high humidity reduces the effectiveness of this,” said Dr Watson.

“Heatstroke is an emergency and requires medical attention by a veterinarian as soon as possible.”

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, anxiety or depression, refusal to obey commands, warm and dry skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting and collapse. “You’ll need to act immediately before you get to a veterinarian,” says Dr Watson. “Wet the coat with cool water, and apply towels soaked in cool water to hairless areas.” Even if/when the animal starts to respond, veterinary attention remains imperative.

Dr Watson also advises the importance of sunscreen on animals. “Pets need sunscreen too, especially on areas of skin with little or no hair like the nose, ears and on the belly,” she says, noting animals are also susceptible to sun-related cancers such as melanoma.

Animal owners were also advised to keep their pets away from lakes, rivers and streams, as toxic algal blooms become more common in hot temperatures. Cyanobacteria (known as blue-green algae) are tiny bacteria found in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds and brackish water ecosystems. Check your local council website for updates on water safety in your area before venturing out with your dog for a swim.

“Blue-green algae produce toxins (such as microcystins and anatoxins) that can harm people, pets and livestock,” said Dr Watson.

“Dogs that swim, play or drink from lakes and ponds may be exposed to toxic algae. Exposure to these toxins can result in liver damage or failure. Hunting dogs are particularly high risk, because of their increased outdoor exposure. Livestock, also, are often found dead near a water source when left to graze near affected ponds or lakes.”

By CHRIS TOBIN