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How To Prevent Heatstroke in Pets

Cat Under the Sun

As a responsible pet parent, it is your duty to stay vigilant when it comes to your pet’s health. As the weather is warm all year round in tropical countries, pets are more prone to develop heat stroke. 

Dogs and cats are unable to respond to heat as well as humans do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies helping us regulate temperature. However, dogs and cats only have a few in their feet and around their noses. Thus, they rely on panting and external cooling sources to lose heat. 

Since they are unable to cool themselves as quickly as us, we must take extra precautions. Provide them with a cool, well-ventilated and shaded surroundings. Additionally, giving them access to clean, fresh drinking water is crucial. Heat stroke is fairly common in pets, and it can develop much faster than you think.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a state of hyperthermia resulting in heat injury to tissues. Heatstroke occurs when heat generation exceeds the body’s ability to lose heat. 

What are the Primary Causes of Heatstroke in Pets?

  • A warm, humid environment with inadequate ventilation.
  • Inadequate shade
  • Inadequate fresh drinking water
  • Excessive exercise

Heatstroke is a serious and life-threatening condition! It can cause damage to your pet’s internal organs and sometimes to the point where they stop functioning. It can be rapidly fatal which requires immediate treatment.

Signs of Heatstroke in Pets

Signs of Heatstroke in Pets
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium 
  • Dizziness, staggering 
  • Weakness and lethargy 
  • Muscle tremors 
  • Seizures Collapsing and lying down 
  • Little to no urine production Coma
  • Panting, which increases as heat stroke progresses
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Bright red tongue
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting, diarrheas (possibly with blood)

If you see any of the symptoms in your pet or suspect heatstroke, administer Emergency First Aid at home. Then, immediately take your pet to the doctor.

Emergency First Aid

#1 Immediately remove your pet from the hot environment.

#2 Apply cool water onto their fur and skin. Then, fan them to maximise heat loss.

#3 Wetting down the area around them helps too.

#4 Take your pet to the nearest Veterinarian immediately. 

*Take note: 

  • Do not use ice-water as it may worsen the situation.
  • Heatstroke is an emergency. Always see a vet. Even if your pet looks like they may be recovering, they should still always be checked by a vet.

Watch this video by California Veterinary Specialists to learn more about Pet Emergency First Aid Heat Stroke. 

How Do Vets Help Pets with Heatstroke?

Vets are trained to diagnose the degree of heatstroke. If necessary, administer emergency medical care. They will take your pet’s temperature and vital signs before starting emergency treatment which may include:

  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Medication as required
  • Blood tests to check organ function
  • Cooling treatments e.g. cooling enemas
  • Putting your pet on a drip (intravenous fluids)
  • Ongoing monitoring and treatment as required 

Some Other Causes of Heatstroke in Pets

** IMPORTANT ** All pets are susceptible to heatstroke, owners must take proactive measures to avoid it. However, some additional known risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Neurological disease
  • Breathing difficulties/respiratory disease (laryngeal paralysis, collapsing trachea)
  • Excessive exercise
  • Thick/long hair coat (e.g. long haired breeds)
  • Dehydration
  • Brachycephalic anatomy (flat-faced breeds) such as Pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Persian and Himalayan cats, among others
  • Heart problems/Cardiovascular disease
  • Age extremes (young or old)
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