Pet owners in the Lowveld are urged to keep an eye on their pets during summer in order to prevent heatstroke, which is especially dangerous in dogs.

According to a Nelspruit Animal Hospital statement, the region is well known for its extremely hot and humid summers. Dogs are not as efficient at releasing heat as humans, so it is important that their owners keep them cool and hydrated. Heatstroke in pets is an extremely serious condition and can escalate in a matter of minutes.

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The statement said there are certain dogs, like flat-faced brachycephalic ones such as pugs, bulldogs and boxers, as well as older and overweight dogs, which are more prone to heatstroke. “Even those that enjoy constant exercise and playtime, such as Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and Border collies, should be closely monitored for symptoms of heatstroke, especially on hot days.”

It said knowing how to treat a pet experiencing heatstroke or overheating may be vital to saving your animal’s life. It is not difficult to spot signs of overheating.

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Signs and common symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke in pets:

• Excessive panting or difficulty breathing

• Increased heart rate

• Dehydration (dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting, and sunken eyes, if you lift a bit of skin at the back of the neck, it stays up like a tent)

• Excessive drooling and thick saliva

• Fever (anything over 39.2°C)

• Bright red, grey, purple or bluish gums

• Lack of urine

• Disorientated and dizzy

• Vomiting and diarrhoea (possibly with blood)

• Unconsciousness and seizures.

Treatment of dehydration and heatstroke:

• Move the dog into the shade

• Pour small amounts of room temperature or cool water onto their body (never ice-cold)

• Do not cover them with damp or soaked towels as this will prevent the heat from escaping

• Apply cold water or ice packs only under the armpits and groin

• Help them to drink small amounts of room temperature water

• Once breathing settles, urgently get your pet to the vet

• Stroking the ears (from the base to the tip) can help to calm your dog down.

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