Beware of Heatstroke in Dogs and Cats
Pets owners residing in the desert should be particularly aware of the possibility of heatstroke.
Heat stroke, also called hyperthermia, is characterized by an abnormal increase in body temperature as a result of over-exposure to high environmental temperature. Heat stroke can be a life-threatening condition if emergency measures are not given immediately. Dogs or cats that die from heat stroke often succumb to the total shutdown of the body’s major organs.
Predisposing Causes of Heat Stroke
As your pet is exposed to intense heat and humidity, there is a consequent build-up of heat inside its body. Although a dog can release heat by panting, and a cat pants and licks its coat, the rapid rise in their body temperature often renders these physiological mechanisms inefficient in eliminating heat from the body.
Other predisposing factors for heat stroke in dogs and cats include being overweight or obese, very young or old pets, and when your pet is suffering from respiratory problems.
Important Symptoms of Heat Stroke
A history of exposure to high environmental temperatures accompanied by the any of following signs should prompt you to seek immediate veterinary treatment for your pet. Some of the most common symptoms associated with cases of heat stroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Stringy/thick saliva
- Tongue is bright red
- Gums can be very dark red or very pale
- Muscle tremors
- Nose bleeding (epistaxis)
- Capillary refill time is approximately less than a minute
- Digestive problems –may vomit or have blood-tinged diarrhea
How Can You Protect Your Pets from Heat Stroke?
Since cats and dogs are highly susceptible to heat stroke, being aware of prevailing temperatures and preventing over-exposure to the heat can go a long way in successfully protecting your pets against heat stroke. A rule of thumb: heat stroke can easily take place when they are exposed to environmental temperatures which are higher than their normal body temperatures.
When the temperature outside is soaring, it is a wise to keep your pets indoors. When you are traveling, open the windows a little bit to let some fresh air in or you can turn on your car’s air conditioning system. When you choose to open your car windows, just be sure that the opening is small enough to prevent your dog or cat from accidentally jumping out through the gap.
Pets which are kept outdoors should have access to shaded areas where the air is cooler.
Inside your house, know what rooms are cooler so you can have your pets stay there when temperatures peak during the day. When keeping pets indoors, be sure that they stay in areas which are properly ventilated. Poorly ventilated rooms can often have soaring temperatures when it’s very hot outside.
It is wise to schedule playtime or exercise with your pet during cooler periods such as early morning or late afternoon when the risk of suffering from heat stroke is very nil.
Access to fresh, clean water at all times is very important in preventing heat stroke. There are dog owners who place ice cubes in their pet’s drinking bowls during day time when it’s very hot outside. You can also give them ice lollies flavored with their favorite treats.
First Aid Treatment for Heat Stroke
When your pet is suffering from a mild case of heatstroke, you can easily bring down its body temperature to normal levels by applying ice packs or wrapping your pet with wet towels. Immersing your pet in a bathtub full of cold water or bathing it in cold water can also help bring down its body temperature. Immersion in water or ice pack application should be stopped when your pet’s body temperature returns to normal levels. This is done to prevent your pet from developing hypothermia which is an opposite condition to heatstroke. Hypothermia occurs when body temperature goes down beyond what is normal and is also a potentially serious condition.
Another way to correct mild cases of heat stroke is placing your cat or dog in an air-conditioned room.
Serious cases of heat stroke should immediately be brought to the attention of a veterinarian to prevent irreversible damage to the major organs of the body.