Skip to main content
News_

How to keep small animals safe in hot weather

24 February 2016
Top five tips for keeping small animals safe

As temperatures soar towards 40 degrees, Dr Anne Fawcett from the Faculty of Veterinary Science shares her top five tips for preventing heat-related illness in small animals. 

Over the coming days, Sydney is expected to experience scorching weather conditions as temperatures climb towards 40 degrees Celsuis according to the Bureau of Meteorology. While young children and the elderly are most at risk of developing heat-related illness, companion animals of all kinds are also susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a severe, life-threatening progression of heat stress, where core body temperature reaches 41 degrees Celsius or higher. It is critical, then, that pet owners take every possible precaution to keep man's best friend as safe as possible. 

Dr Anne Fawcett from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science says heat stress harms dogs in two main ways: "The first is by causing injuries through direct heat or overheating. The second is through secondary effects - dehydration, shock and poor circulation. The latter is the major mechanism for life-threatening consequences of heat stroke."

Top five tips from Dr Fawcett:

  1. Where possible, keep companion animals indoors or board them in an air-conditioned facility.
  2. Shade is key to keeping companion animals safe. Make sure they have access to shade all day, as shady spots can disappear as the sun moves.
  3. Cool and iced water is essential. I always provide a small ice-bucket for my guinea pigs on hot days.
  4. Provide adequate ventilation throughout the day.
  5. Do NOT leave animals in a car without air conditioning. Companion animals of all kinds are also susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke.

 

"The mortality rate of dogs admitted to veterinary hospital is 50 - 65 percent so it is crucial owners take every precaution to make sure their animal companions are safe and healthy," said Dr Fawcett.

"While some animals present with obvious symptoms such as panting, lethargy, noisy breathing and red gums, others will be more difficult to detect and may not even be hot to touch. Diagnosis is often tricky, because many owners have begun cooling their animal prior to veterinary attention being received – the presence of a normal or even LOW body temperature does not rule out a diagnosis of heat stroke."

 

Dr Anne Fawcett from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science is available for interviews. This is an edited version of a blog post by Dr Fawcett on Small Animal Talk