During summer months (which implies, at this area, from May to October), it’s absolutely necessary to consider a good prevention against undesirable effects of hot temperatures.

In this article we are going to write about two typical problems related to summer and high temperatures: heat stroke and sunburn.

Heat stroke is a quite serious problem with a high mortality rate. Every animal, including birds, mammals and reptiles may suffer it. Reptiles such as tortoises, iguanas and lizards escape from sunlight at the most critical hours by getting into caves or hiding under stones, but when they are living in captivity, if the cage is exposed to direct sunlight, and not giving the animal any chance of hiding, even if they have a proper water supply, they will die of heat stroke. Birds and rabbits are even more sensitive: when external temperature reaches 40-42ºC, they die very quickly.

Wild animals are usually well adapted to the environment they live, so they always know the best way to escape from high temperatures. The problem usually appears in companion pets when exposed to high temperatures, with no chance to escape from them (for example, by locking them in a car in summer), and when forced to take some exercise under extreme temperatures.

Spanish sanitary authorities warn that a child locked in a car with the air con off starts being in risk of heat stroke when external temperature is over 25ºC, which is not an extreme temperature at all, in just 10 MINUTES. So, if 10 minutes in a car when temperature is over 25ºC is enough to kill a child, imagine what would happen at this area in summer, where the average temperature is 30ºC or more, in case of a dog or a cat, which are normally smaller than a child, wear all year round their own “fur coat”, and are unable to sweat…

Due to the high temperatures we have in this zone, and the fact that modern cars have massive windscreens, which make them work like real greenhouses, you can go 10 minutes to the bank at 10:00 am, only to find when you are back that your pet has been literally roasted alive in your car.

Heat stroke is a real emergency: the animal temperature may reach 42-43ºC and a multi organic damage (specially brain, circulatory and kidneys) may appear very quickly, so it must be taken to the vet, the sooner the better. In the way to the vet, the best thing you can do is to wet the animal as much as possible, and to keep its head up, in order to avoid cerebral oedema. But even with this first aid care and the quickest of the veterinary interventions possible, the odds of a fatal outcome are real (and high).

Locking the pet in a car is not the only way to produce a heat stroke: exercise (even moderate one) at midday in summer, long runs when playing or chasing rabbits, or just a simple walk if we are talking of short nose dogs, are enough. If the animal is wearing a muzzle, which makes them not to pant properly, heat stroke will start even more easily.

The other typical problem connected to direct sunlight exposition in summer, which is sunburn, is much less common than heat stroke, because it happens more commonly in winter, when animals are searching for a warm place. Sunburn may be specially dramatic in white cats (same as people, melanin protects from sunburn, so it’s much easier for a white coated animal to get burnt than for a black coated one): their ears get burnt very easily, and this sunburn may develop in a very high number of cases, an aggressive skin cancer.

Another factor, apart from white skin, which is almost never considered for preventing solar skin damage, is the fact that lots of long haired dogs and cats get clipped very short for the summer: in these cases, the skin gets always a bit irritated after the clipping, which makes it even more sensitive under the sunlight. A similar thing happens in dogs whose face fur covers the eyes, such as Maltese and Old English: it’s very common that the owner tells the groomer to cut face hair short because “the animal cannot see properly”. The thing is, this fur is a natural protection for the eyes against sunlight, and unprotected eyes may suffer corneal damage, which may be permanent.

Of course, we understand summer temperatures here are too high for long haired dogs, so most of them must be clipped. In these cases, keeping them away from direct sunlight from 11:00 am to 18:00 pm would be a sufficient prevention.

So, avoiding exercise when it’s hot, not keeping them locked in non ventilated places and providing a constant fresh water supply, are the best ways to prevent undesirable sunlight effects in summer.


Liliana aldeguer Cerdán col 793

English translation by Sergio Reina Esteban col 747

Clinica Veterinaria

Gran Alacant Exotics

Tel: 966 698 569