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Vet sees red over dog’s death

Vetcare veterinary director, Dr Heidi Ward-McGrath holding one of the dog breeds prone to overheating. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN


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Just before Christmas, three dogs were brought into Masterton Vetcare suffering heatstroke – two survived but only just, one died.

Vetcare nurses and veterinarians worked for four hours to try and save the dog which was bleeding in its chest. But each time they tried to take it off medication it collapsed.

The last time they tried to save it, it had a massive heart attack and died.

They managed to revive the two other dogs but for one it was an ‘all-nighter’ at the vet’s to keep it alive.

Emergency veterinarian Dr Heidi Ward-McGrath said that the dogs had been in cars that were too hot for them and when the owners brought them in they were already dark purple.

They were starting to froth up blood because the liver and kidneys were damaged, she said, and had started bleeding internally.

“I don’t want to keep seeing this over the summer,” Ward-McGrath said.

“I don’t want to see it again. People should not take their dogs out in cars in this heat and they most certainly should not leave them in the car.

“One of the owners went visiting and left the dog, but they stayed too long and they didn’t have the windows open enough. This is too easy to do, and it kills the dogs.”

The temperature in a car can rise to 40 degrees Celcius when it is 25 degrees outside.

Ward-McGrath said any dog can suffer heatstroke, but it is breeds with short noses and soft tissues in the upper airways that obstruct airflow who are particularly at risk.

These dogs are grouped as brachycephalic. Popular brachycephalic breeds include English and French bulldogs, bull mastiffs, Boston terriers, boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and Pekingese.

Ward-McGrath describes the way these dogs breathe as like breathing through a straw. She recommends that when someone gets a dog of this breed that they take it to the vet to discuss operations that can be done to help the dog to breathe better.

“The brachycephalic breeds can’t inhale enough air and if they are hot and starting to panic it is worse for them,” she said.

Dogs that get heat stroke generally have a 50 per cent chance of surviving but for dogs with the short noses and soft pallet the chances drop down to 10 per cent.

Ward-McGrath said people should leave their dogs at home in the cool on hot summer days, and never leave them in cars.

“It is hotter in a car than outside,” she said. “It is better to leave them at home and to consider putting air conditioning on for them. I am urging people not to take their dogs with them at this time of year.”

She advises walking dogs before 9am or after 7pm when it is cooler.

“If the pavement is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the dog as all the heat burns their paws and goes up into their bodies and the dog starts overheating.

“Dogs must have access to plenty of water and a cold splash pool is a good idea. You can make popsicles for the dogs from cooked carrot and pumpkin or banana and honey, which is a great way to help them cool down.”


  1. They do it with children, dogs, elderly!!!!!They should be charged with murder!!!!!MAKES ME SICK TO THINK OF THE SUFFERING!!!!?????

  2. Yes, I totally agree that people should not leave their dog in the car on sunny days. But I also think that New Zealand is not dog friendly. I lived in Blenheim for 7 years in you were not even aloud to walk your dog on a lead through the city.

  3. Quite frankly I would like owners like these prosecuted as it’s neglect. My little girl doesn’t go in the car with at this time of year. She is left at home with internal access to garage which cool as well as security screen windows and door partly open. I put ice cubes in her fresh water at least twice a day.

  4. Why, oh why do dog owners put their dogs in cars on hot days? I just can’t fathom their mentality. Maybe the people should be made to sit in a hot car for a while. But no matter what…. some idiots never learn.

  5. I am a pet lover of all our fury babies, as we have a small 2 1/2 year old Bichon/Maltese, & everytime I go 2 town I always carry fresh water daily 4 her in her cup, I’m ever so blessed that at the Hardware store we can take our fury babies inside the store, I leave the windows down but enough air 4 her 2 breathe, & the lid of her cup is always left off so she can help herself 2 her water, it is always, so I encourage pet owners 2 undertake all the neccessary requirements 2 caring 4 your babes Aroha??Snowie

  6. Leave your dogs at home when it’s hotter than 50 F, be especially careful when it is sunny and even at night in the summer. Don’t linger, check on them often. If its too hot for you to sit in the car with the car off and the windows up, its way too hot for them.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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