Summer Newsletter 2018

Welcome to the Ironmines Summer Newsletter for 2018!

It’s been a very hot, dry summer here in the Southern Highlands and one of the worst snake seasons yet. Snake season is upon us, and it’s not just dog and cats that are at risk, cattle are too! This newsletter has a focus on heat stress in small animals and cattle and snake bites in pets.


Cattle have a tougher time than humans. Cattle are unable to dissipate heat efficiently through sweating and rely heavily on respiration to cool down. Also, the fermentation process within their rumen generates additional heat.

Heat stress can be related to humidity, air movement and access to shade. The most severe heat stress occurs when both temperature and humidity are high and night temperatures do not decrease to allow cattle to dissipate their body heat.

Heat stress can decrease production such as weight gain, milk production and milk composition.

Typical signs of heat stress:

  • Panting and open mouth breathing
  • Seeking shade and refusal to lie down
  • Crowding over the water troughs
  • Decreased activity and eating
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Lack of coordination and trembling

Ways to minimise heat stress:

  • Provide access to clean drinking water in close proximity to cattle
  • Ensure summer pasture is of high quality
  • Provide supplementary feed at night when it’s cooler
  • Provide shade, ideally use paddocks with shade trees during periods of heat stress
  • Reduce the walking distance and speed of cattle movement where possible.
  • Sprinklers can be used over the yard to wet the cows’ coat and aid evaporative cooling
    • Removal of water vapour by air movement such as a fan is ideal

If you are concerned about any cattle that appears to be in heat stress, contact our clinic for assistance.

Nurse’s corner – heat stress in pets

Summer time means trips to the beach, an awesome tan and thank goodness- we have air conditioning. Summer can also be the time for heat stress and heat stroke.

Heat stress is a dangerous condition caused by a severely elevated core body temperature. In extreme cases this can lead to death. Our pets aren’t as efficient at releasing heat from their bodies as we are and may heat up faster than us.

Dogs only have sweat glands in their feet and cool down by panting. Cats will groom themselves frequently in order to keep their coat damp. Our pocket pets, like rabbits and guinea pigs- tend to use their ears as their temperature control.

So, how can we help keep our pets cool?

  • Provide your dogs with a paddle pool (like a clam shell that you can get from Bunnings!)
  • Cats and rabbits can be wiped over with a damp cloth.
  • Birds may like to be sprayed with water, using a misting nozzle.
  • Place damp towels over your rabbit and guinea pig hutches, so the breeze gives them cool air.
  • Always ensure they have plenty of drinking water, and not just from one available source.
  • Make icy treats! Put their favourite treats in a plastic container with water and freeze overnight.
  • Only exercise your pets early in the morning, or very late evening. Be mindful not to over exercise.
  • We’re in the age of technology, if someone isn’t going to be home, you can get awesome nanny cams that connect via your WiFi and directly to your phone.

Signs of heat stress in our animals include: increase in breathing and panting, initially appearing restless followed by lethargy, bright red gums, a rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, muscle tremors and possibly seizures.

If you are concerned about your pet and see any of these signs, they need to be cooled down gradually. Remove them from the heat source, wrap them in a damp towel and transport to your vet immediately.

Snake bites in dogs

Australia is home to some of the most venmous snakes in the world. We have 21 of the world’s 25 most venomous snakes! There are twelve species of Australian snakes that are potentially lethal to dogs, however the highest proportion of NSW snake envenomation is due to the Red Bellied Black snake followed by the Brown snake and then the Tiger snake.

Diagnosis of snake bites based on clinical signs is challenging due to the differences in the venom components and similar signs seen in other diseases. Signs to look out for are; paralysis, weakness, collapse, panting or difficulty breathing. Vomiting can also occur in some cases.

There is a huge unpredictability factor due to the variable time following a snake bite for clinical signs to appear, which can be up to 24hrs. If you suspect that your dog has been in contact with a snake and your dog seems fine, it’s best to double check with a vet before things progress.

The major role of snake venom is to incapacitate prey, facilitate digestion. Each species of snake contains different venom. For example venom in species such as the Brown, Tiger and Red-bellied Black snake can cause excessive blood clotting. However, venom from the Copperhead has the opposite effect and stops the blood from clotting normally.  Snake venom may contain neurotoxic components that can cause paralysis and muscle weakness. Early veterinary treatment can save lives, treatment often involves the use of anti-venom, providing intravenous fluids and intensive nursing care