We are in the middle of a shocking Australian summer with two issues that aren’t going away in a hurry: smoke and heat. Pets are more affected by the smoke and heat than people so you will need to understand how it occurs and signs to look for.

Heat stroke or hyperthermia is seen in dogs (and very rarely in cats) that have been exercising in hot and humid weather, or confined in a closed space such as a car. Some breeds are more at risk as they are unable to lose heat easily due to the shape of their nose (e.g. bulldogs, pugs).

Look out for panting and/or difficulty breathing or increased effort/noise when breathing, depression, lethargy or even coma, seizures, lack of co-ordination, bright red or blue tinged gum colour, bloody diarrhoea, and dark coloured urine.

If you see above symptoms, cover the animal with cool tap water for at least 5 minutes before transporting your pet to the vet as this therapy can be life-saving. Don’t use ice, as it could cause blood vessels in the skin to constrict, which impairs heat loss. Once your pet cools down, it may stop panting and begin to shiver. Dry your pet and keep it warm.

With appropriate and timely medical therapy, many patients recover. Unfortunately, if this treatment is not instigated, more than half of animals with heat stress will die. Heat stroke is a life threatening condition that can cause damage to and even failure of multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, clotting system, gastrointestinal tract and brain. It is a life threatening condition, seek veterinary attention immediately.

For prevention, give your pets access to shade or water. Never lock your pet in a car for any amount of time. Doggy day care at a vet clinic can also keep them supervised and safe.

On the other hand, if you feel that the smoke is affecting you, make sure you consider your pets are safe. They can’t tell us they are feeling asthmatic so watch for difficulty breathing, eye irritation, fatigue, weakness and stumbling.

Keep your pets indoors as much as possible and keep the windows shut. Avoid outdoor exercise when air quality is poor. Have an animal emergency plan ready for times of bushfires. Excellent information can be found on the RSPCA website.

Dr Daniel Huynh is a local veterinary surgeon and regular contributor talking about all things pets! For your pet care needs, visit Merrylands VET at 122 Merrylands Road, Merrylands NSW 2160 or call (02) 9682 1547.