British Columbia

B.C. vets see big spike in heat-related visits and pets dying

Vets across the province warn the heat has led to a big surge in heat stroke visits and it’s proven to be deadly for some animals. They ask owners to monitor their pets for symptoms.

One vet says she's seen over a dozen animals die from the heat in one shift alone

B.C. vets are seeing a spike in heat-related cases this week and some have been deadly. (CBC)

Staff at animal hospitals across B.C. are warning the heat is leading to a surge in heat stroke visits and deaths.

"It's heartbreaking the toll it's taking," said Kaneycia Bush-McLean, a veterinary technician at the Animal Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley. 

In one shift alone, Bush-McLean says she saw over a dozen animals die from heat-related causes, including cats, dogs and bunnies.  

"There were multiple pets that had passed away at home. There were pets that passed trying to get into the clinic, as they were driving in to be seen." 

Staff at Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Nanaimo tend to a dog suffering from the heat. (Skye Ryan/CHEK)

Veterinarian Dr. Tom Homer of Mountainside Animal Hospital in North Vancouver has seen the spike in pets experiencing heat strokes since the weekend. For some animals, the help came too late. 

"Effects of heat stroke aren't just there and then. They can be delayed," he explained, "They could get heat stroke today and symptoms start to show tonight, or overnight into the next day." 

Staff at Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Nanaimo say they've seen at least four dogs die. 

Large farm animals also struggling 

The animals at Humanity for Horses Rescue and Rehab in Duncan have been sprayed with water around the clock to bring down their body temperature.

It's very scary, I mean these horses have never seen these kinds of conditions before," said founder Rebecca Sanesh.

Humanity for Horses Rescue and Rehab's founder Rebecca Sanesh sprays water on her animals during the heat wave. (Skye Ryan/CHEK)

"We've even heard about farmers and their livestock and they don't have the means to cool down such large quantities of large animals," said vet technician Bush-McLean.  

Vets are asking owners to monitor all animals for symptoms. 

What are symptoms to look for? 

Veterinarian Dr. Tom Homer lists a number of signs to watch for this week: 

  • Lethargy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Behavioural changes; including seeking shade, wanting more water.
  • More severe symptoms; collapse, tremors, seizures.

When in doubt, call your vet or local animal hospital for advice. 

Tips to keep pets cool

Dr. Homer and the B.C. SPCA have tips to help dogs, cats or any indoor animals stay refreshed. 

  • Keep pets out of the sun, especially during peak hours
    • Take your dog out for a walk late in the evening or once the sun has set, for example
  • Do not take pets for a car ride
    • Do not leave your pet in your car alone for any reason
  • Keep fresh water available
    • Add ice cubes to water bowl 
  • Keep a fan going 
  • Give your pet a cool place to sleep
    • Consider purchasing a cooling mat 

The B.C. SPCA's full list can be found here. 

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