Watching out for warmer weather

Kelly Nickalls
Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The weather is finally warming up, after what seems like a very long winter. While I'm sure most of us welcome this, it is a good time to remind clients how to keep their pets safe in warmer weather and, surprisingly, recent advice suggests it is not just heatwaves we need to be aware of.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA, 2023) recently released new statistics that showed how during last summer's record-breaking heatwave, where temperatures reached over 40°C in the UK, vets saw fewer cases of heat stroke, burnt paw pads, sunburn and breathing difficulties than they did in the summer of 2018 – a year that was significantly cooler. Vets suggested this was because media coverage of the 2022 heatwave was extensive, making pet owners more aware of the dangers to their animals and how to protect them. I know I personally spent a lot of time frantically searching for information on how to keep my energetic then 8-month-old puppy safe last summer, with pre-6am walks becoming part of our routine to avoid the heat of the day.

The BVA is suggesting that owners need to start taking precautions against heat now, during these cooler months, to keep pets safe from heat-related illnesses. Owners may have their guard down when it seems cooler, but even in late spring and early summer, when the sun comes out cars, caravans and conservatories can all heat up quickly, putting pets at risk. Dogs are at particular risk as, unlike humans, they cannot sweat to cool down quickly. Some breeds, such as brachycephalics, are at even greater risk as they struggle to cool down by panting as a result of their physiology. Veterinary nurses can play a key role in ensuring owners are aware of this: perhaps it is something to briefly mention in consultations at this time of year?

BVA Junior Vice President Anna Judson highlighted the need for owners to take action: ‘Dogs won't stop playing and running because it is hot, so owners need to take action to prevent them overheating’. This is something I can attest to, with my young Golden Retriever keen to play whatever the weather. Good advice from trusted professionals can make a huge difference to the safety of pets.

It is important to remember that it isn't just dogs who are at risk. Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can all be affected by heat and the BVA (2023) has useful tips for all animals. Hopefully last year's widespread media coverage of the dangers of heat to pets has raised awareness, but a reminder for most people certainly wouldn't go amiss.

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