Warmer weather due to climate crisis puts small pets at risk of heatstroke

Date:15 February 2022 Author: Micayla Vellai Tags:, ,

Just a few weeks ago, temperatures in the Western Cape soared above 44-degrees as residents had to endure the sweltering weather conditions. This extreme heat saw The South African Weather Service issue a warning that read “when the temperature is extremely high, humans’ ability to cool their bodies through sweating is reduced. This can be a real threat that leads to hyperthermia”.

But it wasn’t only humans who were in the spotlight. Many articles started surfacing about how to protect your dogs during the heatwave with early signs of heatstroke listed as heavy panting and rapid breathing, excessive drooling, dry mucous membranes, bright red gums and tongue and a higher heart rate.

Experts are now saying that dogs are not the only pets vulnerable to heatstroke, and smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs are also at risk. This is even more evident as global temperatures continue to rise as a result of the climate emergency.

Emphasis has been placed on better public awareness of heatstroke, while common symptoms displayed in all animals include abnormal breathing, lethargy, collapsing, and stomach issues such as diarrhoea.

“There is a misconception that heatstroke in pets only relates to dogs in hot cars and we need to do more to raise awareness of risk factors not only for dogs but in the wider pet population.

“Owners of small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs may need to review their pet’s housing and take steps to keep their pets cool… to reduce the risk of heatstroke,” said Dr Anne Carter, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University as per The Guardian.

Metro goes on to cite researcher and vet, Emily Hall, who said: “Heat-related illness can affect all pets and is likely to become more common as global temperatures rise.”

“Our findings highlight the need for better public awareness of heatstroke and the risk to all animals. The fact that brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs and rabbits were overrepresented in our study suggests that owners of these animals should be particularly vigilant during hot weather,” she adds.

RSPCA Pet Insurance outlines ways for your pet to enjoy the Summer safely:

  • Have a cool, well-ventilated space for your pet. Good ventilation is critical because many animals lose heat by panting (evaporative cooling) which relies on good air flow. Outdoor pets should also always have access to shade.
  • All pets should have access to plenty of fresh clean drinking water at all times.
  • Never leave your pet in a car as temperatures rise quickly even on mild temperature days and can kill pets.
  • Avoid exercising animals in hot weather.
  • Avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.

Picture: Unsplash

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