Pet owners love to include their furry friends while outdoors under the summer sun. Your pet enjoys summertime fun as much as you do, and will readily join you for a hike, game of fetch, or romp at the park. Unfortunately, your pet may be having too much fun to take a cool-down break, and can develop heat stroke if she does not rest or drink. Know how to recognize the signs of heat stroke, what to do if your pet has heat stroke, and how to prevent this summer disaster.
What Is Heat Stroke in Pets?
Heat stroke, or overheating, occurs when your dog or cat’s body temperature rises above the normal range of 100 to 102.2 degrees. Pets can overheat any time they are exposed to high temperatures, but most heat stroke cases occur during the summer when pets are left outside without adequate shelter and water. Heat and humidity can quickly cause a pet’s temperature to rise to dangerously high levels.
Animals are covered with a thick fur coat, and have few sweat glands to help them cool down. Panting, which exposes the oral and nasal surfaces to air for moisture evaporation, is a pet’s main cooling mechanism. A pet panting is a good sign she is feeling too warm and trying to release body heat.
Any pet can develop heat stroke, but brachycephalic breeds—those with short muzzles, such as pugs and bulldogs—are predisposed to overheating because their shorter respiratory tracts are less efficient at dissipating heat. Elderly pets, overweight pets, and those with cardiac or respiratory disease are also at a higher risk for heat stroke.
What Are Heat Stroke Signs in Pets?
If your pet develops heat stroke, she will display specific clinical signs to let you know she is not feeling well, such as:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Incoordination or stumbling
- Sudden collapse
Heat stroke can quickly become a life-threatening emergency, so act immediately if your pet displays any of these signs.
What Should You Do If Your Pet Has Heat Stroke?
If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take her to a cool area and offer her cool—never cold—water to drink. If she is displaying mild heat stroke signs, such as panting and weakness, you can try to cool her down at home.
Take her rectal temperature with a digital thermometer, and if it is above normal, cover her with towels soaked in lukewarm water. Never place your pet in cold water, or wipe her down with cold water, as rapid cooling can cause
sudden blood pressure changes that will worsen her condition. When your pet’s rectal temperature drops to 103.5°F, stop all cooling efforts.
Contact your family veterinarian immediately in case your pet needs further care. If you need emergency treatment after hours or on a weekend, the skilled team at Avets is ready to treat your pet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How Can You Prevent Heat Stroke in Your Pet?
Follow these tips to prevent your pet from developing heat stroke:
- Don’t leave your pet unattended outside on hot days, and always watch her closely for overheating signs.
- When your pet is outside, ensure she has shade to escape the sun, and plenty of cool water to drink.
- During playtime, make your pet take a break every 10 minutes and offer her a drink of cool water.
- If your pet is a brachycephalic breed or is elderly, overweight, or has a chronic disease condition, restrict outside time to short bathroom breaks only on hot or humid days.
- Take your daily walk or jog in the early morning or in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.
- Never leave your pet in a car, even if it is not hot outside. The sun can quickly heat a car interior to dangerously high temperatures, leaving a helpless pet with no way to escape the heat.
If you have questions about heat stroke in pets, or if you think your pet may have heat stroke, contact AVETS for immediate help: 412-373-4200.