When the temperatures rise, it is important to remind ourselves – and our clients – of the dangers of hot weather and how it can affect our patients. Veterinarians have an important role to play in educating clients about heat exposure and what to do in the event of heatstroke when it comes to pets.
For example, it is never
acceptable to leave pets in vehicles during hot weather – not even for a few
minutes. What seems like common sense to us as veterinarians may not be common
sense to others. Providing educational information on your website or during
patient visits is a great way to inform your clients of the dangers of heat
exposure with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” during hot weather.
Below are first-aid instructions for
pets with heatstroke from the AVMA that you can share with clients.
First Aid for
leave your pet in the car on warm days. The temperature inside a car can rise
very quickly to dangerous levels, even on milder days. Pets can succumb to
heatstroke very easily and must be treated very quickly to give them the best
chance of survival.
- If you cannot immediately get your pet to a veterinarian, move it to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight. If possible, use a fan or some other method to force ventilation on the animal.
- Place a cool or cold, wet towel around its neck and head. Do not cover your pet’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Remove the towel, wring it out, rewet it, and rewrap it every few minutes as you cool the animal.
- Pour or use a hose to keep water running over the animal’s body (especially the abdomen and between the hind legs) and use your hands to massage its legs and sweep the water away as it absorbs the body heat.
- Transport the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
For those who are still offering
curbside services, it is especially important to educate clients on the
importance of keeping patients cool in the vehicle during wait times. When
clients call to check in, remind them to keep the air-conditioning running
until staff can retrieve their pets.
It’s also essential to ensure patients
are retrieved from vehicles in a timely manner when the temperatures climb. Set
a clinic policy with the team regarding timely patient retrieval from the
vehicle to prevent heat exposure.
And don’t forget to consider the effects
of extreme heat on the parking lot surface. We all know how it feels to walk with
bare feet across hot pavement. The same goes for our patients. Consider
providing shade (such as a tent) or alternative access during hot weather so
patients pads do not burn while they are coming into the building.
during Hot Weather
For clinics that provide boarding
services, the summer travel season can be a busy time – and it can present
additional challenges for protecting the animals in your care.
If your practice provides outdoor
kennels or yards for boarders, take extra precautions during hot weather. Set
limits for the amount of time each animal can be left outside. Always provide a
source of shade and adequate hydration. Also, pay extra attention to “at-risk”
patients, like brachycephalic breeds or geriatric patients, which may be more
prone to heat stress.
Animal bailee claims related to patient injury and death from heat exposure while in outdoor kennels and enclosures are not uncommon. Consider protecting your practice by securing animal bailee coverage through the AVMA Trust’s PLIT program.