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Abstract
As climate change causes global temperatures to rise, heat-related illness, a potentially fatal condition in dogs, will become an ever-greater threat. This study aimed to report the incidence, fatality and canine risk factors of heat-related illness in UK dogs under primary veterinary care in 2016. The VetCompassTM programme collects de-identified electronic patient records from UK veterinary practices for research. From the clinical records of 905,543 dogs under veterinary care in 2016, 395 confirmed heat-related illness events were identified. The estimated 2016 incidence of heat-related illness was 0.04% (95% CI 0.04-0.05%), with an event fatality rate of 14.18% (95% CI 11.08 - 17.96%). Multivariable analysis identified significant risk factors including breed (e.g. Chow Chow, Bulldog and French Bulldog), higher bodyweight relative to the breed/sex mean and being over two years of age. Dogs with a brachycephalic skull shape and dogs weighing over 50 kg were also at greater risk. As we move into an ever-warmer world, veterinary professionals may need to include resistance to heat-related illness amongst their rationales when advising owners on breed selection. Breeding for good respiratory function and maintaining a healthy bodyweight should be considered key welfare priorities for all dogs to limit the risk of heat-related illness.
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