Tuesday 13 October 2015

Are you ready for warmer weather?

There is no doubt that we are heading for a HOT summer! With the surprisingly warm October weather and recent bushfires, our concerns for heat related illness have been sparked early this year.
Heat stress in animals occurs when they are unable to maintain their normal body temperature on a hot day. The signs of heat stress include: excessive panting, salivating, whining and agitation. In severe cases of heat stress, animals may stop panting and start to vomit. Heat stress is an emergency and you should contact your vet immediately if you suspect that your animal may be suffering from this illness. While all of our pets are susceptible to heat stress, smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds are at a higher risk and extra special care should be taken to help keep them cool on hot days. Brachycephalic ("squishy face") dogs and cats (e.g. Bulldogs, Pugs, Persian cats) are also at a higher risk.
It is your responsibility to help keep your animals comfortable and as cool as possible on a hot day. Here are my top tips to help keep your pets cool during the warmer weather:
-        Have fresh cold water available at all times
-        Place ice blocks in your animal’s water dish
-        Do not walk/exercise your dog during the hottest part of the day. It is safest to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid peak temperatures.
-        Pets should ideally be kept indoors in a cool room, but if they must remain outside ensure that they have adequate shade
-        Wipe your pets down with a cool, damp towel or leave wet towels out for them to lie on
-        Bathe (dogs) or mist (cats, rabbits, birds) your pet with cool water several times throughout the day. If water stresses your animal it may be best to avoid bathing or misting as it could cause more harm then good.
-        Offer your pet frozen treats (e.g. frozen vegetables, ice cubes)
-        Provide your animal with ice packs that they could rest near
-        Provide your dog with a wading pool (kept under shade of course!)
-        Consider having your pet clipped if they have a long and/or thick coat
-        NEVER leave your pets in a vehicle on a hot day- remember, dogs die in hot cars!
On hot days, you should be very careful not to walk your dog on hot footpaths as they may burn their paws. My rule is that if the footpath is too hot for me to walk on in bare feet then it is also too hot for my dog’s feet!
While we hope that we won’t be affected by bushfires, it is important that we are prepared for the worst case scenario. You have a responsibility to ensure that your animals are considered in your fire plan. It is a good idea to have a bushfire relocation kit prepared for your animals. This kit should include:
-          Food and water
-          A bowl for each pet
-          A second collar and lead
-          A carrier for cats and other smaller pets
-          Bedding and a woollen blanket for protection
-          A favourite toy
-          Any medications that your animal may be taking
-          Your vet’s contact details
-          A pet first aid kit
In the lead up to the bushfire season it is also important that you ensure that your animals are microchipped and wearing a collar identification tag at all times. You should also make certain that the contact details on your pet’s microchip are up to date. For more information about how to prepare for bushfires you can visit the CFA website: http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au
(and thank you to all of the wonderful members of the CFA!)
Dr Joanna treating a dog that was burnt during bushfires
And finally, help wildlife survive the hot weather by keeping  a bowl of clean water in your front yard (away from your pets) for them.
Enjoy the warm weather!
Dr Jess