Hot Weather & Heatstroke

We all love spending quality time with our pets on a hot summer’s day. However, we need to stay vigilant in summer, as the warmer weather can expose our pets to several dangers.

One of these dangers is heatstroke. Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when your pet’s body temperature rises rapidly. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.

There are several causes for heatstroke, including:

  • Being left in a hot car,
  • Being left outdoors during extreme heat,
  • Not having enough shade and water when outdoors,
  • Exercising in hot weather.
  • It is important to know the signs of heatstroke - even if you avoid all the above.

Your pet may show some or all of the below symptoms:

  • Excessive panting,
  • Restlessness,
  • Drooling excessively,
  • Becoming unstable on their feet,
  • Their gums turn a bluish-purple or bright red colour.

If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, you must take them to a vet immediately.
Make sure to cool your pet while you are on your way to see us.
The most effective way to cool your pet is by using a fan or air-conditioning. You can also use a damp towel or a spray bottle filled with water to cool them lightly. It is important not to submerge your pet in ice-cold water, as this could be detrimental to their recovery.

Other warm-weather tips:

  • In hot weather, it is also essential to keep your pet’s feet in mind – if the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it is too hot for your pets! Keep them inside, walk in the shade, or use pet socks/shoes if it's not possible to keep them off hot surfaces.
  • Always ensure there are plenty of cool places with shade and fresh water for your pet to access on hot days. Never leave them unattended in a car, even if the windows are down.
  • Before the weather gets too warm, book your pet in for a groom to remove any unnecessary shedding hair, and a trim where suitable. Do not shave your pet’s coat yourself – some breeds require their coats to help regulate body temperature.
  • Brachycephalic dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke and can develop serious health issues quickly due to their inability to pant efficiently. If you own a brachycephalic dog (a dog with a flattened face, such as a French or English bulldog, Pug, Boston terrier, Pekinese, Boxer, etc.), please be very mindful of their whereabouts on a hot day, and keep an eye out for any of these symptoms.

If you think your pet is suffering heatstroke, or you want to know more about how to prevent it, call your vet clinic today!


Waterside Safety

Some pets love to get involved in fun water activities when the weather heats up.

Whether you are going to the beach, a river, a lake, on a boat, or just staying at home by the pool, these waterside safety tips will help you, and your pet enjoy the warm weather safely.

Look out for oysters!

Their sharp shells can cause deep cuts to skin and paws that can be incredibly painful for your pet, requiring stitches and potentially antibiotics to ward off any nasty infections.

Prevent scavenging

There are some wonderfully smelly things your pet might find by the water that can be very dangerous if ingested, including dead fish and other animals (some can be toxic!), discarded fishing items, rubbish, and more. If you see any of these items lying around, please pick them up and dispose of them properly to save other pets or native animals from finding them.

Fishing hooks & line

Leftover, poorly discarded bait & gutted fish can cause gastrointestinal upsets such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Often, these tasty morsels may also include a fishing hook or line, which has a high potential of significant medical problems if ingested. Fishhooks can become stuck in the oesophagus (food pipe) or stomach. This will usually require the hooks to be removed endoscopically or surgically.

Carry fresh water

Prevent your pet from drinking salt or stagnant water and offer them fresh water to avoid them getting sick. Excess salt will lead to dehydration and can cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Stagnant water can host all sorts of nasties, like waterborne diseases and parasites.

Seaweed & Kelp

Do not let your pet play with or eat seaweed and kelp. Ingested seaweed and kelp can lead to intestinal blockages, which can be fatal if not surgically removed in severe cases.

Shoreside critters

There are many animals and plants that live around water – some toxic. Ingesting, licking, being bitten, or stung by one of these organisms will not only be painful but present problems for your furry friend.

Algae

Algal blooms are common in stagnant water, especially over the warmer months when the conditions are just right. Blue-green algae, and many other types, are toxic to cats and dogs when ingested.

Life jackets

If there is a chance your pet could end up in deep water on a day out, investing in a life jacket may prove to be very beneficial.

Wash your pet

Make sure to wash your pet after playing in the water. Washing off salty water and river water is essential to ensure there are no nasties in your pet’s coat or irritating their skin.

Beware of pools

Pool covers present a very serious danger - if your pet falls in, they may become trapped and could drown. Pets can often struggle to get out of the pool if they fall in, also leading to drowning. Never leave your pets unsupervised around the pool.

 

Speak to your vet if you have questions or concerns about any of the above hazards.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t or has suffered an injury by the water, give your vet a call right away for help!


Skin allergies in dogs and cats

By Dr Danielle Page BVSc Hill’s Pet Nutrition

What are the most common skin allergies in pets?

The most common skin allergies in dogs and cats are to things in their environment such as dust mites, pollens and grasses. These skin allergies manifest as itching and scratching, causing red, inflamed and damaged skin, a condition which is called atopy, or atopic dermatitis. Another common allergy is to fleas, which, predictably enough, is called flea allergy dermatitis. These are the big two skin allergies seen in dogs and cats throughout Australia and New Zealand and we typically see them seasonally - but some (such as dust mites) can be seen all year round. Allergies to food, while also a possibility for causing skin reactions, are actually much less common than atopic dermatitis and flea allergy dermatitis, making up only 10-15% of all skin allergies¹ and typically occur all year round.

This may surprise many pet owners, given all the focus food allergies are given in the media! It may also come as a surprise that, despite common belief, grains are rarely the cause of food allergies and most often the allergy is to an animal protein with beef, dairy and chicken being the most common allergens in dogs and beef, dairy and fish for cats.

What are environmental allergies?

The reason some animals suffer from environmental allergies is that they have a defective skin barrier which is an inherited disorder. Allergens, such as pollens pass through the skin (unlike in us where we inhale the allergens and typically get hayfever) which causes an allergic reaction. Moisture can also be lost through this defective barrier, causing the skin to be dry. This in turn makes the pet feel itchy and they scratch and lick their skin, causing further damage. An analogy you may want to think about is treated/oiled wood on a deck vs an untreated, undressed deck which represents a defective skin barrier.

While any breed can suffer from environmental allergies, there are some breeds which are more likely to have skin problems such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, English bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston terriers, Shih tzus, Miniature Schnauzers, and my first dog (which suffered badly from environmental allergies): West Highland white terriers².

More about food allergies

For pets to be allergic to a food they must have eaten it previously in order to become sensitised to it. When the food is eaten repeatedly their immune system mounts an allergic response. A pet may have eaten the same food for months or years and then develop an allergy to it. A pet can develop an allergy to any protein fed commonly.

Food sensitivities or intolerances are quite different to food allergies in that they don’t involve the pet’s immune system. Collectively, food allergies and food intolerances are called adverse food reactions, and may result in gastrointestinal problems or skin problems, or both. Gastrointestinal signs may include loose stools, increased stool frequency, flatulence and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. Skin signs can mimic many other types of skin disease and can include itchiness around the face and paws, ear infections and can also be generalised over the entire body.

How are adverse reactions to food diagnosed?

Unfortunately there is no blood or skin test to rule food allergy in or out. The only way to make a diagnosis is to do a food elimination trial, which involves feeding a diet made up exclusively of ingredients the pet hasn’t eaten before. In addition to looking at all the ingredients in the regular food, all treats or flavoured medications/wormers, etc. a pet may have consumed (particularly within the previous 6 months) need to be taken into account. Your veterinarian will advise what is the best food for your pet to be on during the diet trial.

Hill’s new diet for managing both environmental and food sensitivities in dogs

Hill’s latest skin care diet, Prescription Diet Derm Complete, is a breakthrough for Hill’s in the management of skin conditions in dogs, because it has been clinically tested to help manage both food and environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete contains nutrients such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to help strengthen the skin barrier, as well as an optimal blend of vitamins and minerals to help nourish the skin and coat. Derm Complete also contains Hill’s proprietary blend of ingredients and nutrients, including phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables to help support skin function in dogs with environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete can also help manage food sensitivities because it contains a single source of protein, egg, which rarely causes adverse food reactions in dogs, making it a great long term solution for dogs with food or environmental sensitivities, or both.

Skin conditions can have a wide range of causes and require veterinary expertise for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about your pet's individual health and treatment options.

 

¹Mueller RS, Olivry T, Prélaud P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2016;12:9.
²Miller WH, Griffin CE, Campbell KL, eds. Hypersensitivity Disorders. In: Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology 7 th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2013:372