Hot Weather Help: Pet Heat Strokes

Hot Weather Help: Pet Heat Strokes

Texas Summers get hot, hot, HOT. While it’s easy for humans to express when we’re too tired, hot or thirsty from the heat, how do we know when it's too much for our pets?

Since pets can't exactly speak to us, here’s what you need to know about animal heat strokes and how to protect your pet this summer:

What is a Pet Heat Stroke?

A heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, or an increase in body temperature above the normal range (99.5°F - 102.5°F for pets). A pet heat stroke occurs when an animal’s body cannot keep its internal temperature within the normal range due to exertion and high external temperatures.

What causes heat stroke in pets?

Without necessary caution, any significantly hot external environment can cause a heat stroke. For example, when your pet is exercising out in the hot Texas sun without access to shade or left in an enclosed car on a hot day.

In order to cool down, dogs and cats pant to release heat through the grooves in the roofs of their mouths, sweat (a little) through the pads on their paws and use a temperature exchange called convection. Thus, if the air around your pet is much hotter than his internal body temperature, he cannot properly cool down.    

Can all pets suffer from heat strokes?

Yes! However, much like dehydration, dogs are more likely to have a heat stroke than cats.

Heat strokes are more common in thick-haired, long-haired, short-nosed or flat-faced breeds. If you have a working dog or your dog suffers from a medical condition like laryngeal paralysis or obesity, keep an especially close eye out for signs of overheating.

What are the signs of heat stroke?

Common symptoms of pet heat strokes include:
  • Excessive panting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Increased salivation
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Little to no urination
  • Sudden breathing distress
  • Changes in mental status
  • Unconsciousness

    What do I do?

    First, immediately remove your pet from the heat.

    Using a water hose, bathtub, or whatever water source is most readily available, douse your pet in cool--not ice-cold--water or cover them in cool towels, focusing on the neck.

    Make cool, clean drinking water available to your pet. However, do not force them to drink, as this could cause your dog to choke.

    Frequently take your dog’s temperature rectally and stop the cooling-down process once their temperature reaches 103°F. Take your pet to their vet as soon as possible.

    When left untreated, an overheated pup can develop serious issues like swelling of the brain, blood clots, and kidney failure. If you are unsure, take a trip to the vet and have your fur-baby checked out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  

    How can I prevent heat strokes in my pets?

    In almost all cases, animal heat strokes can be prevented.

    1. While on walks or outside, watch for excessive and increased weakness - these will be the first signs. 
    2. Provide your pet with plenty of shade and freshwater at all times.
    3. Plan exercise and playtime accordingly; both you and your dog will be cooler in the morning and evenings.
    4. If you can tell your dog or cat is hot but still wants to play, take frequent shade/water breaks, or move the activity indoors with air conditioning.

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