Keep it cool

Dr Christy Brown, a vet based in Ballito, shares her tips for keeping our furry friends cool this summer.

It’s no secret that February is the hottest – and most humid – month on the North Coast. And, if you’re struggling with the heat, your pets are likely to be too. “The hot KZN summer can be a debilitating and uncomfortable time for our pets,” explains Dr Brown. “Obesity, brachycephalic (flat-nosed pets such as bulldogs and pugs), over-exercise, and thick coats are all risk factors for over-heating.”

While we humans sweat to cool down, dogs and cats pant. “Panting is not nearly as effective, leaving them more sensitive to high environmental temperatures,” says Dr Brown. “Extreme heat can cause heatstroke, a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition, which causes multiple organ failure in severe cases.”

Some of the early warning signs of heatstroke include panting, loud, rapid breathing, and dark red gums. “Heatstroke may be present when the body temperature climbs above 40 degrees Celsius,” explains Dr Brown. “We use a paediatric rectal thermometre to assess a pet’s temperature.”

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If you notice your pet is in distress, panting heavily, appears weak or has an altered mental state, it’s important that you take measures to cool them down and that you seek veterinary advice immediately. Dousing the animal in cool water before transport to the vet can start the cooling process.


1. Ensure there is always ample drinking water available to your pet.
2. Provide cool places for your pet to rest and escape from the heat – a cool, tiled floor, shady areas in the garden, under the fan or in an airconditioned room.
3. On terribly hot days, allow your pets to come inside, away from the heat.
4. Wetting your pet or providing them with a bath to swim in may provide some relief.
5. Avoid exercise in the heat of the day – this includes chasing the ball
(and excited children) in the heat.

6. Choose to go for walks in the early morning or evening when the temperature is cooler.

Details: Dr Christy Brown; Ballito Vet Hospital; 1 Ballito Business Centre, Ballito Drive; 032 946 2052; [email protected]

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