Many pet owners in Vietnam often ask me how to help their pet deal with the constant heat and humidity here, especially those who have moved here with their pets from colder climates. Fortunately there are several simple things you can do to ensure your furry friend is more comfortable in this tropical climate.
Always provide fresh water. In lower temperatures animals quite often drink less but in higher temperatures they have to drink much more to keep themselves well-hydrated and avoid dehydration – which can have severe consequences. The first signs of dehydration are dry gums, sunken eyes and poor skin elasticity – if you notice any of these signs you should never ignore them and seek veterinary advice immediately.
Remember when you go for a walk with your dog you should always bring water and a bowl and offer it regularly – the same when you are traveling by bicycle, motorbike or car. If you stop to have a break, remember to give some water to your animal. You can also use the water to wet your pet’s coat and feet if they start to get too hot.
Never leave your pet outside without easy access to a well-shaded area with plenty of water, and ideally in an area where there is some air movement. Leaving your pet alone on the balcony or roof is never a good idea – it doesn’t take long for them to get overheated and start to experience heatstroke.
This is especially important if you leave your animal in a car – with the magnifying effect of the glass windows even only a few minutes can lead to heat stroke. It’s not only the temperature that rises rapidly in the car but the ambient humidity too, which means that the harder your pet pants to reduce their temperature the less effective it becomes – sometimes minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
If your pet is panting, drooling or breathing very fast after it was left in the car or in any hot place take them to your vet immediately.
The only way that your dog can lose heat is through their paws and panting. This is really important to remember especially when you’re out and about in cities as the temperature of the ground (especially concrete and tarmac) can prevent any heat loss from their paws. The most effective way for your dog to cool down is through panting so if you need to muzzle your dog (to prevent them eating or for safety reason) it’s very important that you choose a style that allows them to open their mouth adequately.
It seems logical that clipping your pet’s hair short is a good way to cool them down. Actually, this is not the case because the long hairs protect against the sun’s rays and prevents heatstroke as well as being an integral part of how your dog’s physiology works to regulate heat. If you have a very active long-haired dog and are outside in the heat the best option is to trim only the hair underneath the abdomen where there is no direct sunlight.
While your pooch may look cute in their new clothes remember that they can’t tell you how they feel and wearing clothes can make them very hot. This is especially true with waterproof clothing as it traps the heat inside and can quickly cause body temperatures to rise.
WHAT TO DO
If you notice any of the signs of heatstroke following these steps:
- Soak your pet with room temperature water (never use iced water as this prevents heat loss)
- Wrap your pet in cool wet towels
- Wet your pet’s paws with medical alcohol to encourage heat loss
- Call your vet and let them know you are on your way so they can prepare
- Go to your vet immediately
BIO: Dr Anna is one of the veterinary surgeons at Animal Doctors International. Anna’s special interest is neurology in which she gained experience in referral hospitals in Germany and Switzerland. Anna has moved to Vietnam following a successful stint as senior veterinarian for an animal charity in Thailand.