x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Even a walk on a hot summer day could kill your dog

Vets urge pet owners to protect their animals from the summer sun as soaring temperatures lead to a rise in the number of deaths from heat exhaustion.

Dr Ellen Kruijning in her Dubai clinic. She recommends taking dogs for short walks before 7am during the summer.
Dr Ellen Kruijning in her Dubai clinic. She recommends taking dogs for short walks before 7am during the summer.

DUBAI // Vets are warning pet owners to protect their animals from the summer sun as soaring temperatures at this time of year lead to a rise in the number of deaths from heat exhaustion. Practitioners in Dubai say the problem began as early as two months ago, when walks in late spring heat began to take their toll on dogs and long spells in unshaded enclosures affected rabbits.

Clare Aitchinson, a veterinary nurse at Al Safa Veterinary Clinic, said: "We have had cases of heat stroke, even two months ago. It can happen in the lead-up to summer, in the spring months." Unlike people, dogs do not sweat to cool down, but pant and also lose some heat through their paws. If they are not kept adequately cool during the UAE's long, hot summers, even a 10-minute walk after sundown can bring on hyperthermia, leading to organ failure and death.

Ms Aitchinson warned against walking a dog on asphalt surfaces or keeping it in the car - even with the air conditioning on or the windows open. "Dogs need huge amounts of water now - an ordinary bowl could not be enough, maybe use a bucket," she added. Dr Ellen Kruijning, of Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic, has already treated a few cases this year. "If you take a dog's temperature before and after a walk you will see that most of the time there is a one- or two-degree difference. That could be fatal. If it goes above 42°C then all of the cells start to break down. If you're in time we can stop the process by cooling it down but sometimes the damage is already too extensive."

She urged dog owners to shorten walk times now and restrict them to early mornings, before 7am. Dogs should be kept inside or in an air-conditioned outhouse, and dog and cat flaps should be tested to ensure they are working properly. Symptoms of hyperthermia include heavy panting more than 15 minutes after a walk has ended, restless pacing, excessive saliva, vomiting or bad diarrhoea, lethargy or the collapse of the animal.

Dr Kruijning said if any of these symptoms were present, it was important to cool the animal down with something like a bag of frozen peas, or dousing it with soda, and to seek immediate veterinary help. But she warned: "Don't overdo it, otherwise the dog can go the other way and the temperature can keep dropping." She added that pet owners going on holiday should give clear instructions to those looking after their animals.

"Standing on the corner of a street with the dog on a lead for 45 minutes, having a social time and talking to friends, is also a no-go. The maid or nanny may feel fine but the dog is slowly succumbing next to them. This is something we have seen before." loatway@thenational.ae