Heatstroke in pets- tips on how to keep your pet safe.

The sun has been out for 2 days straight now which obviously means it is the beginning of summer in the UK. Rising temperatures might be nice for us but our four legged friends don’t always enjoy the heat, and in some cases it can have devastating effects. I’ve put my ‘day job’ veterinarian hat on to come up with some tips on how to keep your furry friends safe in hot weather.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is basically hyperthermia- a high body temperature- that has not been caused by a fever. It is a true emergency; if left untreated it can soon lead to the death of a pet. ‘Exertional heatstroke’ occurs during or after exercise on hot sunny days. Non exertional occurs when animals are exposed to high temperatures without ventilation or a water source.


Why are dogs and cats at risk?

Our pets have a hard time regulating their body temperature when it is warm outside. Unlike humans, they only have sweat glands on their paws and around their nose, so once overheated they really struggle to cool themselves down.  Fit and healthy dogs and cats can suffer from heatstroke, but some individuals are at a higher risk of developing symptoms. These include

  • Very old or young dogs or cats.
  • Pregnant or nursing animals
  • Overweight animals
  • Short nosed/flat faced breeds (aka ‘Brachycephalics) such as Pugs, Pekinese or boxer dogs, as well as Himalayan or Persian cats.
  • Thick coated breeds
  • animals with pre existing breathing or heart conditions.

What are the signs to look out for?

Common things to watch out for include

  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Dark coloured (red or purple) tongue
  • Lethargy or acting sleepy
  • Wobbliness/ being uncoordinated
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting

These signs can be associated with other health problems, so if in doubt please call your veterinary surgery for advice. In some cases you may not see warning signs that your pet is in difficulty

How to help your pet – emergency first aid and prevention


If you think your pet has become overheated there are several ways that you can help:

  1. Don’t panic! Move your pet to a cool or shady area and ring  your local vet for advice.
  2. cool your pet- this needs to be done slowly to prevent doing more harm than good. In some cases you can start doing this whilst making your way to the veterinary surgery.

NEVER immerse your pet fully/ completely douse them in cold water as this could cause them to go into shock.

Ways to safely bring your dog’s temperature down include

  • Using small amounts of room temperature water to pour on their body, little and often.
  • Wrapping your pet in wet towels.
  • Standing your pet near a fan.
  • Allowing them to drink SMALL amounts of cool water.

Whilst it is important to cool your pet, make sure you don’t over do it. Cooling your pet for too long or too quickly will potentially cause them to go into shock.

Once your pets breathing rate becomes more normal and they start to seem less agitated then you can stop cooling your pet. In all instances it is a good idea to take your pet in to the vets for a check- up ASAP, even if they seem better.

Prevention

… is always better than cure, so here are some tips to stop your pet becoming too warm in the first place

Never ever be tempted to leave your pet in a car or caravan. Even with open windows and in the shade the temperature inside a parked vehicle can soar within minutes.

Avoid exercising your pet in the heat of the day ( 11-3pm in the UK ). Early morning or evening is better. Not only will this prevent heatstroke but it will also prevent burnt or damaged pads due to hot pavements/tarmac.


Provide plenty of fresh water for your pet to drink. Sometimes cats can be really fussy about what they drink from- they may prefer running water (ie water fountain or tap) or particular bowls.

Ice- a few cubes in a bowl of water can go down well on hot days. Filling a plastic bottle 3/4 full with water and freeze it overnight. Once frozen, wrap in a tea towel or other fabric cover and place under your pets bedding. Just be sure they can’t come into direct contact with the ice, and I would not leave them unattended with it!

What to do if you see a dog in a parked car?

For good advice, check out the RSPCAs suggestions. Calling the police (if you are in the UK ) can be a first port of call, as RSPCA

The RSPCA has good advice on what to do if you find a dog in a hot car. If you are worried about an animal left unattended , or it appears distressed the best thing to do is call the police.


How does your pet like to keep cool in the heat? How do you help them out? I’d love to hear! 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets hear about the boys- what really happens to male calves on a dairy farm?


At the end of March I wrote a blog piece in response to an article published by the Guardian  regarding dairy farming. It has been read by over 23,000 people from all over the world. I hope that it helped to set the record straight regarding what British Dairy farmers do for a living .

The torrent of abuse I received from a handful of angry vegans has died down, so I figured, in an effort to further enlighten people, it is time to publish a follow up. This post is an expansion of one of the paragraphs from my other blog, detailing what actually happens to male calves born on a UK dairy farm.

ayrshire 2

Shot at dawn?

black bull

In his ‘opinion piece’ written for the Guardian, Mr Newkey Burden stated that male calves born on a dairy farm are shot immediately after birth. I assume the author meant this to be a shocking revelation, ‘baby animals’ being shot in the name of food production. It was shocking, because it simply isn’t true.

I will not say that male dairy calves never die at an early age; neonatal calf deaths do occur for several reasons. Calves of both sexes die due to diseases, defects,  injuries and difficult births. Calves may have to be euthanized (put to sleep) due to any one of these, or they may die suddenly.  Some farms may have to euthanize calves, irrespective of sex, if they are prevented from moving them to other farms or rearing units due to Tuberculosis movement restrictions.

Neither will I say that the shooting of young male calves has never happened . However, in the vast majority of cases a male calf born today on a dairy unit will be raised until he is at least 10 to 12 months old ( for rose veal production).

Gender balance

bulls

So why all the fuss about male calves anyway? Historically, dairy farms did not ‘need’ male calves. They did (and still do) need female calves for several reasons:

Replacing ‘lost’ cows- Each year, a number of adult cows will leave a dairy herd for various reasons. These include old age, disease and accidental deaths. Some herds also sell adult cows to other farms. Female calves (heifers) are needed each year to replace these lost members of the herd.

Heifers enter the dairy herd at (approx.) 2 years old. As such, heifer calves need to be born each year to ensure that there are enough cows in the milking herd at any one point in time.

bulls loose housing

The ratio of male to female calves born on a dairy farm, either due to natural service (bull mating) or Artificial insemination, is approx. 60:40. Some farms, in an effort to swing the ratio in favour of females, use ‘sexed semen’ during artificial insemination. This changes the female to male ratio to 90:10.  As you can see, it is impossible to prevent males from being born, so what becomes of them?

Traditionally, male dairy calves (bulls) would be perceived as taking space and food away from the heifers. Nowadays this is no longer the case.

What happens to male calves?

bull in a barrow

If you are a (close minded militant) vegan I suggest you stop reading now, as the next part deals with meat production. If you are open minded and would like to find out more please read on.

There are a few different farming systems that rely on male dairy calves.

  • Rose veal – Ok, you might have heard about ‘veal’ and remember the images of crated calves overfed on milk to produce white veal. Those days are long gone (thankfully). Rose veal refers to meat from male calves that have been reared on a cereal and straw diet for 8-12 months (average 10-12). The calves are housed indoors on straw, and are able to move about and interact with their pen mates. ours mix
  • Bull beef – Male calves in this farming system are raised to between 12 to 16 months. They are fed on a similar diet (cereal/straw) and housed in a similar fashion.
  • Beef – Male calves that go into this system tend to be castrated. Entire male dairy bulls are potentially dangerous, and may injure themselves, other bulls or humans. Bullocks are kept until they are 2 to 3 years of age, before going to slaughter.

red and white bull

Some farms choose/have the facilities to raise their own male calves. Others will sell them on to farms that specifically raise bulls/bullocks.

bulls mixed

Recently I received an email from a vegan activist, asking me whether the dairy industry really does kill all male calves at birth. In the interests of transparency, I conducted a survey (via twitter) asking dairy farmers what they did with their calves. 87 votes were cast,  almost 60% sold their dairy bulls, almost 30% kept them and raised them, 5% bought in calves to rear, with the remainder ‘euthanizing’.  Bearing in mind this was essentially a ‘vox pop’, it does show that the vast majority of dairy bull calves will live much longer than Mr Newkey Burden alleged.

P.S All of the photos on this blog post come from farmers raising male dairy calves. They were sent to me by members of the Ladies and Livestock group on Facebook, in response to a request to show that dairy bull calves do live much longer than the morning they were born.

”We sell all ours through market at around 8weeks! But most definitely are not shot and binned!! 😡

May not be worth a great deal but they cover their costs and unless something was majorly wrong with them why would you kill them?….hate how we’re viewed as complete unemotional murderers 😡😡”

comment from a ‘Ladies and Livestock’ member and farmer in response to my request for information on dairy calves.