The heat is upon us and, unfortunately, along with the hot weather comes heat-related pet deaths. Hyperthermia occurs when heat is produced or stored in the body at a rate greater than it is lost. When heat can not be dissipated adequately, pets will experience a heatstroke which can result in death in less than an hour if not managed properly. This is because a body temperature of 103° F or above can cause organ dysfunction. Heatstroke can occur in all varieties of sizes and breeds of animals. However, pets which fall into the following categories are particularly susceptible to heatstroke:
- pets in age extremities (young/old)
- obese pets
- pets with previous history of heat-related disease
- brachycephalic breeds (EX. bulldogs)
- pets with thick fur/coats who arent assisted in adjusting to heat
- pets with insufficient access to water
- underlying heart/lung disorders
- pets with hyperthyroidism
In San Diego, alone hundreds of pets will suffer from heatstroke, which can be avoided if pet owners are educated about what to look for and ways to prevent their pets from overheating.
Signs that your pet is overheating include:
- heavy panting
- excessive thirst
- excessive drooling
- bright or reddened gums
- moist body tissues
- rapid heart rate
- acute kidney failure
- stoppage of the heart and/or breathing
- vomiting blood
- black, tarry stool
- muscle tremors
- unconsciousness (unresponsive pet)
- uncoordinated/ drunken-like movement
- weakness or lethargy
How to keep your pet cool
To prevent your pet from overheating make sure that it has plenty of accessible clean drinking water at all times! If your pet spends a length of time outside make sure it has an available shaded area. Try to manage when your pet gets exercise; avoid going out during the peak heat hours of the day and incorporate play in water throughout the day to keep your pet cool.
If your pet has a thick coat of fur, have our groomers trim your pets fur to a nice cool length. Do not cut your pets fur too short because this may make your pet more susceptible to sunburns. Make sure surfaces your pet walks on are not too hot to prevent sun burns on their paw pads. A rule of thumb is if the surface is too hot for your hand it is too hot for your pets’ paws. If your pet is experiencing heat stroke immediately contact a local veterinarian.
To speed up cooling process for an overheating pet:
- apply tepid water to skin or whole body (manually or bath)
- place ice packs over areas with large vessels (neck, thighs, abdomen)
- apply rubbing alcohol on paws and/or inner ear flap
NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET ALONE IN A PARKED CAR. ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR PET HAS ACCESS TO A COOL AREA AND CLEAN WATER.
For more information on pet heatstroke, contact us or visit our website for more information.
By: Jagpal S. Deo, DVM