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Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

The signs of heat exhaustion are lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive panting. 

Heat exhaustion becomes heat stroke when the central nervous system is involved, this may include depression, blindness, loss of coordination, stupor, coma, collapse, seizures and potentially death. 

If you suspect that your cat or dog is suffering from either heat exhaustion or heat stroke this must be regarded as a medical emergency. Take steps to cool your pet immediately and travel them to your vet as fast as it is safe to do so. Calling ahead will allow your vet to prepare for your pet’s arrival so they can be treated as quickly as possible. 


Areas of skin with sparse hair covering are vulnerable to sunburn. This is particularly true of lighter coloured skin on the nose, ears, belly and tail tip. The best way to prevent sunburn is to keep your pet out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. When these areas must be exposed to the sun you can use a sunscreen formulated specifically for pets, brands recommended by vets include Dermoscent Sunfree, Filtaclear or Petkin Sunscreen. 

Speak to your vet if your pet’s skin looks crusty, scaly or painful. It is possible for pets to get skin cancer from repeated sun damage.

Fly Strike

Warmer weather brings more fly activity. Fly strike occurs when flies lay their eggs on damaged skin, moist skin protected by hair matts, or contaminated by faeces. Once these eggs hatch, the maggots eat dead skin and secretions, before burrowing into deeper tissue layers. Unless all maggots are removed the pet may die from shock or sepsis. Immediate treatment is essential and usually involves trimming the coat and physically removing the maggots. An anaesthetic is likely required to perform this task thoroughly. 

To prevent fly strike all skin wounds should be tended to and hair maintained, staying free of matts, urine and faecal contamination. Regular grooming, particularly of older pets will help ensure fly strike is not allowed to develop. 

Taking measures to reduce the number of flies will also help prevent this problem, such as prompt disposal of rubbish and using fly curtains. 

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Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS

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