5 Must-Know Facts about Pet Heatstroke
by Catherine C on Jul 20, 2023
As the temperatures rise and we all look forward to sunny days and outdoor fun, there is a lurking danger that pet owners must be keenly aware of - heatstroke. This silent threat can pose a significant risk to our furry friends if not recognized and managed appropriately. In this blog post, we will delve into what pet heatstroke is, what triggers it, its signs, immediate response actions, and, importantly, prevention strategies. Join us as we explore this vital topic to ensure our pets can safely enjoy the sunshine season.
- What is Pet Heatstroke
- Why Pet Heatstroke Occurs
- How to Recognize Pet Heatstroke
- How to Respond to Heatstroke
- How to Prevent Pet Heatstroke
What is Pet Heatstroke
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is a condition where an animal's body temperature rises dangerously above normal due to excessive heat exposure. Normal body temperatures for dogs and cats range from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that hyperthermia is a common problem in pets, and that pets with body temperatures above 103 degrees Fahrenheit are at increased risk for serious complications, including death.
A pet with a body temperature above 103 degrees needs to be cooled down, and anything above 103 is a dire emergency that could lead to serious complications or even death.
Image Credit to Owltron
Why Pet Heatstroke Occurs
Heatstroke in pets can be instigated by various circumstances, each contributing to a swift increase in body temperature. Here are some of the most prevalent triggers:
- Over-Exertion in High Temperatures
Pets, particularly dogs, can overheat rapidly if forced to exercise excessively in hot weather. Dogs' ability to sweat is far less efficient than humans, making it challenging for them to cool down.
- Confinement in a Parked Vehicle
Contrary to popular belief, cracking open the windows does little to decrease the temperature inside a parked car.
The interior of a car can heat up very quickly, even on a mild day," according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2021. The study found that the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight could rise by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. The temperature inside the car could reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in an hour.
- Pre-existing Health Conditions
Pets with health conditions, such as heart disease or respiratory problems, are at a higher risk of heatstroke. These conditions can hinder their body's ability to regulate temperature effectively.
- Excess Body Weight
Overweight or obese pets are more prone to heatstroke due to the insulating effect of excess body fat which can retain heat.
- Breed-Specific Physical Traits
Certain breeds of dogs and cats are inherently more prone to heatstroke due to their specific physical traits. For instance, dogs with brachycephalic features (shortened snouts), such as Bulldogs and Pugs, along with certain cat breeds like Persians and Himalayans with their dense fur and short noses, can struggle more with heat regulation.
Additional causes of heatstroke in pets include overdressing pets, usage of certain grooming products, and certain medications.
How to Recognize Pet Heatstroke Signs
Early detection and intervention of heatstroke in pets are crucial, and this begins with identifying its signs. The symptoms are similar in dogs and cats, although they are often more challenging to detect in cats. These signs may include:
- Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
This is one of the most common signs of heatstroke in pets. When a pet's body temperature rises, it tries to cool down by panting. However, if the pet's body temperature is too high, panting will not be enough to cool them down. As a result, the pet may start to breathe heavily or even have difficulty breathing.
- Excessive drooling
Drooling is another common sign of heatstroke in pets. As the pet's body temperature rises, it may start to drool excessively in an attempt to cool down.
- Dry or sticky gums
The gums of a pet with heatstroke will often be dry or sticky. This is because the body is not able to produce enough saliva to keep the gums moist.
- Abnormal gum color, such as pale or blue
The gum color of a pet with heatstroke may also be abnormal. The gums may be pale or even blue, which is a sign that the pet's body is not getting enough oxygen.
- Restlessness or agitation
Pets with heatstroke may be restless or agitated. They may pace or whine, and they may seem anxious or confused.
Image Credit to Owltron
How to Respond to Heatstroke
Recognizing the signs of heatstroke and taking immediate actions can be lifesaving for your pet. If your pet exhibits symptoms of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, or loss of consciousness, it's crucial to start the cooling process and get them to a vet immediately. Here's what to do:
- Move Your Pet to a Cooler Environment
The first step is to get your pet out of the heat. Move them to an air-conditioned room or, if not available, a shady spot. This can help to gradually lower their body temperature.
- Offer Fresh, Cool Water
Provide your pet with cool, fresh water, but do not force them to drink. Never offer ice-cold water as it can lead to shock.
- Apply Cool Water to Their Body
Dampen your pet's body with cool (not cold) water. Concentrate on the head, neck, and areas underneath the forelimbs and hind legs. You can use a soaked towel or a hose but never immerse them fully in cold water, as this can lead to shock.
- Allow Evaporation
Don't towel-dry your pet once you've wetted them, as evaporation helps to cool them down. You can also use a fan to facilitate this process.
- Get to the Vet
Even if your pet appears to be recovering, it's critical to get them to the vet. Heatstroke can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure, irregular heart rhythms, and neurological issues, which need to be assessed and addressed by a professional.
How to Prevent Pet Heatstroke
Prevention is always better than cure. The key to mitigating the risk of heatstroke lies in proactive measures and awareness of your pet's environment and behaviors. Here are some strategies:
- Timing of Exercise
Avoid exercising your pet or taking them for walks during the peak heat hours. Opt for cooler periods of the day, typically in the early morning or late evening.
- Providing Shade and Hydration
Always ensure your pet has access to a shaded area and fresh water, particularly in the summer months.
- Avoiding Parked Cars
Never leave your pet in a parked car, even with the windows slightly open. The temperature inside a parked car can increase dramatically in a very short period, creating a life-threatening situation for your pet.
- Regular check-up
Regular vet check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight for your pet can help mitigate this risk.
Pet heatstroke is a grave threat in summer that can be deadly. Understanding the signs and taking immediate actions are essential, yet the best remedy lies in prevention. Keep your pet cool, hydrated, and never in a parked car. Regular vet check-ups and healthy weight maintenance can also lower this risk. Stay vigilant and proactive to keep your furry friends safe in the heat.