Pet Articles

Heat Stroke in Pets

Heat Stroke – What is heat stroke and how does it occur?

Heat stroke is a fever that is induced by high environmental temperatures. Animals are at risk when exposed to hot and humid temperatures because effective evaporated cooling in cats and dogs cannot occur in these conditions. This results in the body’s core temperature rising drastically to above 40 degrees. Once the body exceeds 41,5-42,5 degrees Celsius, cellular function is seriously affected and unconsciousness and even death may follow.

Situations or conditions that can lead to heat stroke.

  • Pets left out doors in hot and humid weather with no shade or water .
  • Exercising your pet in hot humid weather even if you have water available is putting your pet at risk.
  • Leaving your pet in a closed car in direct sun or on a warm day even with cracked open windows can be deadly. Panting a normal physiological means to cool off actually saturates the air with water vapour making the air in the car warmer and consequently even more difficult for an animal to cool down.
  • Young and old animals are more sensitive to high temperatures because they cannot acclimatize effectively.
  • Heavy coated dogs (Husky ,German Shepherd, Chow Chow)
  • Animals with medical problems. History of seizures , heart or lung disease should never be exposed to hot humid temperatures.
  • Certain breeds with short snouts such as Shit tzu, Boxers, Pekinese, Bull dogs and Persian cats are particularly susceptible due to their flat faces that make breathing difficult.

Signs of Heat stroke

  • Panting
  • Sweating
  • Salivating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • High body temperature (above 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit.
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Mucous membranes bright red
  • Capillary refill time very fast ( less than 1 sec)
  • Dehydration
  • Depression , lethargic ( acting drunk )
  • Shock
  • Seizure ,Collapse, or coma

First Aid For Heat stroke

  • The objective here is to cool your pet down as fast as possible to bring the body temperature down back to normal .
  • If animal is outdoors or in a car get animal out of the car or out of direct heat and bring to a cool shaded area.
  • Check for ABC’s of CPR and shock ; administer CPR
  • Hose down the animal with cool water. Use and find anything you can to wet your animal.
  • Place water soaked towels on head, neck, feet chest and abdomen.
  • If you have air conditioning in the car place animal in car with air conditioning on high and drive straight to your veterinarian. If animal is in shock and requires CPR have an other person give first aid keep air conditioning on while driving to the veterinarian.
  • If incidence occurs at home place pet in bath tub with running shower( cool water).
  • Rub alcohol under the toe pads. This helps to cool the body.
  • Once you have started cooling your pet take it’s temperature every 5 minutes until you reach your veterinarian.When your pet’s temperature returns to normal (38.5-39.5degrees Celsius ) stop cooling .

It’s important to monitor the temperature so that hypothermia (subnormal body temperature)doesn’t occur. Applying first aid is the vital point in saving a pet from heat stroke , however your pet’s well being should not stop here. Your pet should seek veterinary attention following a heat stroke incidence as other medical problems ( kidney failure, digestive tract , neurological , cardiopulmonary problems )could arise hours or even days following a heat stroke.

Chantale Robinson AHT,BS,MP

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