While heatstroke can occur at any time of year it is far more likely during the summer months and extra precautions should be taken during that time to protect your pets. Today our Fairhaven vets talk about heatstroke in dogs and cats, the signs and symptoms to look out for, and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
What is Heatstroke in Dogs & Cats?
Heatstroke usually occurs in the summer months when it is hot and your pet's core body temperature rises above average at a faster rate than their bodies can cool themselves down. Heatstroke in your dog or cat could potentially trigger an anti-inflammatory response in their body causing this could make their entire body take an inflammatory response, which can result in organ failure and even be fatal.
Other factors that can cause heatstroke in cats and dogs include excessive exercise, not enough shade, dehydration, a warm/humid environment without enough circulation, such as being in an unventilated car or being left outside on a hot day.
The following factors could increase your pet's risk of heatstroke:
- Thick fur/coat
- Age (young or old pets)
- Flat-faced pets (Himalayan cats, Persian cats, bulldogs, Scottish terriers, etc.)
If you believe your pet has heatstroke it is considered an emergency that requires immediate veterinary care. While New England Animal Hospital provides urgent care services for established clients on a limited basis, you'll find local emergency veterinary hospitals listed on our Urgent Care page.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs or Cats?
There are several signs you should watch out for to determine if your cat or dog has heat exhaustion/heatstroke and we have listed them below:
- Panting (most often seen in dogs but, can occur in cats with heatstroke)
- No or little urine
- Delirium/mental confusion
- Red or pale gums
- Muscle tremors
- Red tongue
- Heart rate increase
- Distressed breathing
- Rapid breathing
If you notice any of these symptoms contact your vet right away as heatstroke is a very serious condition that requires urgent care.
How Can Heatstroke in Dogs & Cats be Treated?
Before taking your pet to the vet or if you can't get there immediately there are several things you can do to bring down your cat or dog's body temperature at home.
- First, remove them from the hot environment as fast as you can.
- Place cool (not cold) water or cloths on their bodies to help cool them down. Don't use ice packs, ice cubes or cold water as it can worsen their condition.
- Aim a fan at them to implement evaporative cooling.
- Keep the air conditioner on the entire time you are in the car taking them to the vet.
- Your pet has to be cooled down gradually, trying to cool your cat or dog too quickly will only make the situation worse, never use ice or ice-cold water.
Call an animal hospital to inform them of your emergency and to let them know you are on your way, they may even provide you with further instructions on how to help your pet, before you get to the animal hospital.
How to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs & Cats
The best treatment for heatstroke is to prevent it from happening altogether, always follow these steps to keep your beloved cat or dog safe from the heat.
- Make sure your pet always has access to shade and fresh drinking water, especially when they are outside in the heat.
- Keep your pet inside on hot days and only bring them outside for bathroom breaks.
- Do not leave your pet in a car it can kill them, even on mild days, the temperature in a vehicle can rise very rapidly.
- Keep your pet off hot surfaces with little or no shade such as asphalt, concrete, and stone.
- Keep a water area in the shade such as a kiddie pool or sprinkler so your dog can cool themselves off and have fun while they are outside.
- Always keep inside areas well ventilated with fans or/and air conditioning.
- Do not take your pet outside for exercise during the day when it is hot out, wait for the evening time when the air is cooler.