Last month Melbourne suffered an extreme heat wave, with temperatures soaring over 40 degrees celsius for four consecutive days! Animals feel the heat as much as we do, some even more. Reservoir Vet Clinic treated several pets and wild animals for heat stress during the heat wave. This month's patient of the month is Leah, a 3 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She was enjoying keeping cool indoors with her owners when a fire at a neighbour's house forced the family outside. Leah was only out in the heat for half an hour but began panting heavily. Her owners recognised something was wrong and rushed her to us.
Leah arrived at the clinic in respiratory distress and with a temperature of 42.2 degrees celsius. A normal canine temperature is between 37.5 and 38.5 degrees so this is a severely elevated temperature. Dr Suzanne and Nurse Dee admitted Leah and began to actively cool her right away. She was bathed with cool running water and her hair was clipped away to allow faster cooling. She was placed on intravenous fluids which further helped to cool her to boost her blood pressure and keep her hydrated. Leah was given oxygen with a mask as she was still breathing very heavily. Her temperature was taken at regular intervals and had began to go down slowly.
Many Cavaliers have heart issues and Leah is no exception. She has a heart murmur and her heart rate was monitored carefully too. As her temperature dropped Leah stopped panting and began to look a lot more comfortable. When her temperature reached 39 degrees, active cooling was stopped and Leah was placed in an air-conditioned room with a bowl of water. Care must be taken not to over-cool animals or they can become hypothermic.
Leah made a full recovery from her episode of heat stress and went home later that day. If action had not been taken, her high temperature could have caused severe organ damage. Every year, many pets and wildlife die from heat stress. This year, many fruit bats and native birds passed away due to the heat. We also treated several possums. When the weather is hot, we recommend keeping all pets indoors with fans or air-conditioners if possible. Ensure they have plenty of fresh water and don't forget about our smaller pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. Smaller pets often suffer the worst from the heat. It is also a good idea to leave bowls of water outside for wild animals and birds to drink from. Stay cool everyone!