Heatstroke is a serious condition that affects far too many dogs and cats. Heatstroke can occur when your pet’s core body temperature rises to 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Because their furry bodies cannot sweat away heat, dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to heatstroke. They pant or breathe quickly to cool themselves. When they are unable to effectively cool themselves, their core temperature rapidly rises. Seizures, organ failure, and clotting issues are just a few of the serious and sometimes fatal consequences.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary care for any animal suspected of suffering from it.
Leaving a pet in a parked car is the most common cause of heatstroke. Despite popular belief, “cracking a window” will not protect your pet from this potentially fatal condition. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises pet owners to “love ’em and leave ’em” when transporting pets. “Please leave your pets at home whenever possible,” the AVMA advises. “They’ll be safe and content until you return.” A study published in the journal “Pediatrics” also confirms that the interior temperature of parked cars rises steadily over time, even on mildly warm days.
Heatstroke can occur in pets if they overexert themselves on hot, humid days or are unable to get out of the sun and into some shade. Heatstroke is more common in certain dog breeds. Dogs with short noses include Pekingese, pugs, Lhasa apsos, and Boston terriers. These short-nosed dogs’ airways are less efficient at cooling when they pant. Heatstroke is also a risk in dogs who are overweight or obese, as well as dogs and cats who have other airway issues. Cats frequently suffer from heat stroke after becoming trapped in parked cars or hot attics. It is critical to account for all of your animals after working in an area that could be a heatstroke trap.
Signs and Symptoms
Heatstroke causes excessive panting, salivating, and discomfort in pets at first. They may vomit or have diarrhea, become disoriented, or even start having seizures as their symptoms worsen. This can result in loss of consciousness, organ damage, and death if not treated promptly. The normal body temperature of a dog or cat is around 101.5°F. Heatstroke causes an elevated temperature in pets; in a heat stroke emergency, rectal heat ranges can reach 105°F or higher.
Emergency First Aid
The Veterinary Information Network recommends using first aid to treat hyperthermia in pets. Remove your pet from the source of the hyperthermia and place her in a cool, shaded area, using a fan to cool her down. If possible, determine and record rectal temperature.
Begin by applying cool, wet towels to your pet’s back of the neck, armpits, and groin area. You can also wet the earflaps and paws with cool water.
Take her to the nearest veterinary facility right away. Even if you are able to remove your pet from the hot environment and begin first aid, she will still require treatment. Many heatstroke complications do not appear for several days after the incident; prompt veterinary care may be able to prevent or treat some of these complications.
Physical activity should be performed during the cooler hours of the day. This is especially important for young kittens and the elderly, both of whom are prone to heatstroke. Allow your cat some time to digest if she has recently eaten before beginning playtime.
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