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Heatstroke and dogs

While it’s probably not the first thing anyone thinks of on the subject of Summer (especially in Ireland), pets can get sunburn, heatstroke and a myriad of other heat related illnesses. Keeping your pet safe and cool in the Sun is paramount, so how do you go about doing it and what can you do in the event of an emergency?

Well, you’re in luck. We know a thing or two on the matter!

By taking a few simple steps, you can reduce or even eliminate the risk of your pet getting heatstroke or sunburned; things like ensuring that they have access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times, making sure they have somewhere shaded to hang out and being generally vigilant to the symptoms and signs of heatstroke and sunburn.

We often find that the best way to treat a disease or illness is to not have to treat it at all. Being aware, knowledgeable and vigilant are how you can beat heatstroke and sunburn!

Spotting the Symptoms Of Sunburn:

Funnily, dogs are more often susceptible to this than cats. In the event of sunburn, your dog will try to lick or groom the place that is burned. Alternatively, look for dry or cracked skin on their paws or curling around the edges of their ears. Tender areas like their underside are incredibly prone to burning and they will often try to scratch these areas if they’re affected.

To combat sunburn, apply small amounts of lotion or specialised pet lotion to the affected areas. If the burn doesn’t look like it wants to heal you may need to pay us a visit.

Spotting the Symptoms of Heatstroke:

Heatstroke is not the most easily spotted of all conditions, especially in pets. But, knowing a pet’s behaviour is key to diagnosing them quickly. If you find your pet wandering the house, hiding in a dark place or generally restless, it can mean that there is something wrong with them. Noticing these changes, however minute, in your pet’s personality is key to preventing and dealing with heatstroke. To recap, if you notice any of the following seek medical attention immediately:

• Restless behaviour as your pet tries to find a cool spot.

• Panting, sweaty feet, drooling.

• Rectal temperature is normal to slightly elevated.

More severe symptoms include:

• Rapid pulse and breathing.

• Vomiting.

• Diarrhoea.

• Lethargy.

• Stumbling, staggering.

In the event that you think your pet has heatstroke, the first thing to do is call your Vet and relay your pet’s symptoms to them. Then, you best start getting ready for a journey in the car or on the bus...

What Can I do Until I Get to the Vets?:

Whether you’ve found your pet unconscious or still awake, the only thing you can do until a professional can see them is to gradually (and by gradually we mean super, super slowly) cool them down. A sudden or severe change in their body temperature can force your pet’s body to enter a state of shock; a fate much worse than heatstroke.

To begin with, soak your pet with cool (not cold, almost lukewarm) water, being careful to keep the water out of their nose and mouth. Hover or hold a bag of frozen vegetables or ice around or near their core. If nothing else, try and move your pet to a cool or shaded area, at least until you can get the car started or other travel arrangements organised.


Treating Heatstroke:

Once you get your pet to one of our clinics, we’ll start by attempting to cool them down using some of the methods listed above (except we’ll have cooling pads, not bags of peas...). In more severe cases, we’ll insert an intravenous (IV) line to run cool fluids directly into your pet. This will not only help to lower your pet’s temperature, but will help to counteract the effects of shock and minimise the risk of organ damage.


We’ll then monitor your pet’s temperature until their core temperature begins to fall. Once it has fallen sufficiently, our cooling attempts will be gradually slowed to prevent excessive cooling. Finally, we’ll want to keep your pet until their temperature is stable and at least until they can be evaluated for signs of organ damage.


Once we’re happy that there’s no immediate signs of lasting damage, you and your pet can be on your way. However, we do ask that you keep a close eye on your pet as some organ damage might manifest until a few days after we’ve treated your pet for heatstroke. In any case, the worst is over and you can take a deep breath.


Before we wrap up, if you do find yourself in the middle of an emergency you really shouldn’t be reading this! Click here for our emergency contact list. Otherwise, call 01 8213189 for our Meath and North Dublin clinic, or 01 2987510 for our South Dublin clinic.


We hope that heatstroke and sunburn is now something that you’re aware of. As I said previously, it’s not something we would be used to here in Ireland, but it has been unusually warm of late. In any case, we hope you enjoy these long evenings in the company of your favourite furry friend!



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