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08/17/2012 by Colleen Williams
August 17th, 2012 by Colleen Williams

Protect your pets from summer heat!

Cats and dogs can suffer in summer heat - take these easy steps to help prevent heatstroke!

Summer is a great time for both humans and pets to boost physical activity and get outdoors.  While our feline friends are inclined to find a shady spot and take it easy when the temperatures rise, our canine friends can have a propensity to get into trouble with the heat.  And, all of our four-legged companions have a tough time keeping cool under all that fur. When overheating occurs in cats and dogs heatstroke can be a life-threatening danger.

Since cats and dogs don’t sweat more than a very minimal amount through small glands in their footpads, they cannot cool themselves except through panting cool air into their lungs or licking their coats.  This limited ability to keep themselves naturally cool makes them highly susceptible to suffering heatstroke.  The condition occurs when an animal’s body becomes overheated and the core temperature is not within a safe range.  As good pet parents it‘s our job to monitor pets to ensure they are not over-active in hot temperatures and to have resources necessary to keep them cool.  Also, some pets are more likely to suffer heatstroke, including those that are older or overweight, those with heart conditions, or pets with airway disease.  Cats of short-nosed breeds such as Persians are also more susceptible, so even more caution is needed to keep these guys safe!

Being prepared to prevent illness can be simple with these easy steps:

4 Moves to Prevent Heatstroke in Cats and Dogs

  1. Never leave your pet in an enclosed space like a car, warm room, or sun porch
  2. Always provide clean drinking water and shade when outdoor temperatures reach 70 degrees or above
  3. Restrict exercise in warm weather
  4. Provide dogs with access to swimmable water (Always supervise pets in the water.  Drowning is a common hazard for animals. If you expect to be near deep water or have a weak swimmer, check into pet flotation devices.)

While caution and prevention are always the first choice of action, summer sun can take a turn on any of us.  Here’s what to do if heat exposure sneaks up on you and your pet:

Signs to Watch For

  • Extreme panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation & collapse
  • Bright red tongue or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What To Do If A Heatstroke is Suspected

  • Get your pet out of direct sunlight and into the shade or a place with circulating air (Air conditioning is preferred, if possible.)
  • Give a small amount of water – not too much or your pet could vomit
  • Pour lukewarm water over your pet’s coat to cool her externally
  • Ice packs may be applied to the head (Check temperature rectally as over-cooling your pet can lead to hypothermia. Adult cats’ and dogs’ body temperatures should be approximately 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  • Seek professional treatment

What Is Heatstroke Treatment?

If you suspect your pet has suffered heatstroke it is vital to seek veterinary care.  Your vet will check for internal damage resulting from the high core temperature and can recommend any necessary course of treatment.  Your pet may also need rehydration therapy, which your vet can provide by administering IV fluids.

Average cost of heatstroke treatment: $200 – $500 for minimal case treatment.  Up to $1,000 for extreme case treatment.


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