Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that requires medical intervention immediately. Heat stroke occurs when a pet severely over heats. This is most common during the spring and summer months when the weather turns warm. When a dog or cat’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, heat stroke can occur. Remember, cats and dogs do not have sweat glands like people do. They can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet.
Here are signs and symptoms of heat stroke to be on the lookout for:
• Body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above
• Bloody diarrhea or vomit
• Bright red gums (should be a healthy pink)
• Capillary refill time that is too quick (should take about 2 seconds for the color of the gums to return to pink when pressed with your thumb)
• Depression, stupor (acting drunk), seizure or coma
• Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
• Increased heart rate
• Increased respiratory rate
• Excess salivation
The most common causes for heat stroke in cats and dogs include:
• Preexisting medical conditions including prior heat strokes, upper airway, heart or lung problems
• Breed predisposition. Breeds with shorter, pushed-in noses like the Pug, Shih Tzu, Pekingese, bulldog, boxer, Scottish fold and Persian cat are at greater risk for heat stroke.
• Very young and senior dogs
• Pets left in parked cars
• Pets not acclimated to the warmer climate
• Excessive exercise during hot or humid weather, this includes exercise your pet can normally handle
• Lack of appropriate shelter
• Lack of cold fresh water
• Prolonged seizures
• Thick coated pets
If you notice your pet is suffering from a possible heat stroke, time is of essence! Here are some things you can do prior to transporting your pet to a veterinary clinic:
1. Contact the nearest veterinarian clinic and alert them you will be en route so that they will have an exam room ready for treating your pet.
2. Get your pet out of the direct heat immediately.
3. Check your pet for signs of shock.
4. Spray your pet with cool water for a minute or two. If using an outdoor hose, let the water run a bit to make sure that the water is cool and not hot from the sun.
5. Place towels that are water soaked on your pet’s head, neck, feet, chest and abdomen
6. Turn on a fan and point it at your pet.
7. Rub isopropyl also called rubbing alcohol 70% on the foot pads to help cool your pet. Do not use large amounts of alcohol because it can be toxic if ingested by pets
8. When in your car, turn the air conditioner on high.
9. Immediately take your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital.
Caution! Take steps to allow your pet’s body temperature to gradually cool down. Never place the overheated pet in ice water as this extreme cold can shock the body and cause the body temperature to plummet too fast.
You must still take your pet to the veterinarian even if you are successful in lowering the temperature as soon as possible because additional problems can arise several hours or days later. Some of these conditions can be fatal if not medically treated.
During hot weather, avoid exercising your dog in the heat of the day - and this includes swimming. Instead, exercise them in early morning or after the sun goes down. Dogs are still using their energy and generating heat while swimming and still can be affected by the heat. It is better to allow a water-loving dog to just sit, stand, or lay in the water on hot days than let them expend energy by swimming or fetching tossed tennis balls.
Not all dogs can swim, and some breeds, such as English bulldogs, Pekingese and French bulldogs are not built for swimming, and can possibly drown. Even dogs who are good swimmers can drown if they are not able to safely get out of a pool or body of water.
When traveling with dogs, be prepared for the worse. Sometimes cars break down, and when waiting for help, the temperatures in the car can rise quickly and your pet can get overheated quickly. Always carry clean and fresh water for your pet to drink if they are traveling with you. Carry a towel and a cooler packed with ice as well. Soak your dog and the towel and have them sit on the towel or place the wet towel over them.
Pets are not immune from getting sunburned, and light-skinned dogs are more likely to sunburn or to get melanoma. Rub a pet-safe sun block product on the belly of your dog and the top of his nose. These are the most common sunburn spots. Be aware of the dangers of walking your dog on hot asphalt. Do the palm test first. If the heat from the sidewalk is too hot for your palm, then it is too hot for your dog’s paw pads. Walk your dog in the shade and grass if you must conduct a walk during the heat of day.
WARNING! Never leave pets in a parked car during hot and humid weather! Even if the windows are cracked, pets can quickly suffer from a heat stroke and possibly die. Temperatures can escalate quickly inside parked cars. This includes cars with automatic starters that can turn on the air conditioner because they usually turn themselves off within 10 to 20 minutes.
Remember some pets cannot tolerate the heat. Ensure your pets have plenty of clean, fresh, cool water to drink at home and during walks. Be sure your pets are able to get out of the heat to cool off. Provide ice cubes in water bowls and perhaps, offer a Kong toy stuffed with either wet food or peanut butter that has been frozen.
By Sarah Zumhofe