As temperatures climb to almost 100 degrees this week, there is no better time than now to remind ourselves of the danger of heatstroke in pets. Heatstroke can occur within minutes, so it is important to understand not only the symptoms of it, but also how to ensure your pet stays cool while summer temperatures continue to rise.
Signs of Heatstroke in Pets
According to Today’s Veterinary Practice, heatstroke in dogs is considered to be a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher. In addition to this, physical symptoms such as heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, extreme salivation, lethargy, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and others, may occur. Some pets may even experience seizures when they go into heatstroke.
Like many other diseases, some pets are at higher risk for heatstroke than others. If your pet is extremely old or extremely young, overweight, not used to being in a hot climate/outside, or has heart/respiratory disease, they are at a higher risk for heatstroke. In addition to this, breeds with shorter muzzles - such as pugs, bulldogs, and shih tzus - will have a harder time fending off heatstroke in extremely hot conditions.
What if I Think My Pet has Heatstroke?
Heatstroke is considered a medical EMERGENCY. If you think your pet may be experiencing heatstroke, get them to their veterinarian immediately.
If you cannot immediately leave or your vet is a bit of a drive away, move your pet to a shaded area. Place a cool towel around their neck and head while leaving their eyes, nose, and mouth uncovered. Replace the towel with a fresh one every few minutes to keep it cool. If you do not have a towel on-hand, you can run cool - NOT cold - water over your pet’s body, focusing on the abdomen and between their hind legs. Massage their back legs while you do this to wipe off water that has already absorbed heat. Whichever method you choose, make a plan to transfer your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible while you work to cool down your pet.
How to Prevent Heatstroke
While it is a grave condition for pets that experience it, heatstroke is 100% preventable as long as you stay aware of how the temperature affects animals. Both cats and dogs are significantly more sensitive to temperature changes - meaning a day that may feel completely comfortable to you may be too much for your pet to handle.
As always, NEVER leave your pet in a parked car for any amount of time. According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, car temperatures can rise by almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. This means on an 80-degree day, your car’s interior can rise to almost 100 degrees in that time. No matter how fast you think you will be at whatever errand you are running, it is never worth heatstroke for your pet. Leaving them at home while you are out and about is always the safest option.
Another way to ensure your pet stays cool is to avoid exercise during the warmest parts of the day. Choosing to walk your dog or play with them outside during the early morning or evening hours will help ensure they can still get their exercise while facing less of a risk for heatstroke. However, with temperatures reaching 80 degrees or higher by 9:00am here in Florida, it is also a good idea to pick a venue with ample shade and consumable water for your pet. If possible, bring along a thermos of water with some ice cubes so they can stay hydrated and cool during their play.
We know it’s hard to not take your pets absolutely everywhere with you, but it truly is one of the safest options for them during these hot summer months. Leaving your pet at home in the A/C will ensure both their safety and comfort in the long run. If you have to take them with you, make your trip during cooler parts of the day and work in time for breaks and hydration.
For more information on basic first aid for heatstroke and other pet-related incidents, visit https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-basic-procedures.