Heatstroke (also known as “hyperthermia”) can be a life-threatening condition and as such, it requires immediate treatment.
Heatstroke occurs when a pet’s body absorbs more heat than it is able to release and the pet’s internal temperature increases above normal levels. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.0- 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Pets that are unable to sufficiently cool themselves off are at risk of heatstroke.
Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Your Pet
- Distressed or restless
- Panting or drooling excessively
- Labored breathing
- Gums may be dry and tacky, and also may appear bright red, blue or purple
- Loss of coordination (unsteady on his feet)
- Shaking, tremors or collapse
What To Do for an Overheated Dog or Cat
- Immediately remove the pet from the hot area.
- Move the pet to a cool area and direct a fan on the pet if possible.
- Obtain a rectal temperature if you can, and write it down to tell your veterinarian.
- Begin to cool the pet by placing cool, wet towels on the back of the neck, under the front armpits, and in the groin area. You can also wet their paws with cool water.
- NEVER use ice, or ice-cold water, and NEVER immerse your pet in water. This can cause blood vessels to constrict and actually prevent your pet from cooling down.
- Have cool water available if your pet wants to drink, but do not force water into your pet’s mouth.
- Transport your pet immediately to a veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic.
Photo at right: Juno (the water-loving cat), courtesy of Kristen B.
- Never leave your animal unattended in the car on warm days, even for a few minutes, or even with the windows cracked. On a 70 degree day the temperature inside a parked car can increase to dangerous levels in a very short period of time.
- Make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of water when outdoors on hot days.
- Restrict strenuous activity and exercise on hot days, and always monitor your pet closely in hot weather, especially older or obese pets.
- Do not muzzle your dog on hot days, as panting is the way they cool themselves.
- Some breeds such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boxers, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Shih Tzu’s are described as ‘brachycephalic’, which means ‘short head’. These dogs are much more susceptible to heat stroke. They are unable to efficiently cool themselves from panting and should not exercise or spend time in warm weather.
Always contact your veterinarian or an emergency hospital immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms or if you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke.