Unexpected, fast, and deadly. Heatstroke. A life-threatening condition where the body temperature reaches abnormally high levels. These high temperatures cause heat damage to the tissues of the body, which then leads to the shut-down of internal organs, and eventually results in death. Unlike humans, who regulate their body temperature through the many sweat glands all over their body, dogs and cats only have a few sweat glands which are located at their paw pads and around their noses. These sweat glands only help minimally when it comes to dispersing heat. The primary way for dogs and cats to release heat is by panting. Once our pets can’t cool themselves enough through panting, hyperthermia, and eventually, heatstroke can occur. Heat stroke is an immediate medical emergency and can lead to death in under an hour.
Which animals are more susceptible to heatstroke?
Some animals will be more susceptible to heat stroke, these includes pets that are, or have:
- Heart and/or cardiovascular disease
- Brachiocephalic anatomy of the head
- Thick and/or long coat
- Respiratory disease and/or breathing difficulties
- Very young pets
- Old pets
- Smaller pets, like guinea pigs, rabbits etc.
Signs of heat stroke are:
- Heavy panting and difficulty breathing, which increase in severity as the heat stroke progresses.
- Gums and/or tongue that are bright red, purple, or pale.
- Excessively drooling.
- Uncoordinated movements, hyperactivity and/or restlessness.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting.
- Glassy eyes, dilated pupils .
- Elevated heart rate.
- Appearing lethargic or drowsy.
- Collapse, seizure, coma.
- Muscle tremors, trembling.
Cooling your pet prior to taking them to the vet majorly increases their chances of survival. Some sources claim a range of 50% up to 80%. If your pet suffers from heat stroke:
- Move the animal to a cool and shaded area. Ideally, make use of ventilation like a fan to maximize heat loss.
- Pour cool or tepid (not cold) water over the animal, concentrating on the stomach, armpits, and feet. Never use cold water as this will lead to shock. Wet cloths can be applied to the stomach, armpits, and feet, but need to be replaced constantly or else they will retain the heat. For cats, only pour water over them if it doesn’t stress them. You can rub a cat with a damp towel instead.
- Place a wet towel under the animal.
- Give the animal small amounts of tepid water to drink. Do not force the animal.
- Take the animal immediately to the vet, even if they seem to improve. The vet will assess the severity of the heat stroke and will provide treatment if required.
* Animals that are unconscious will stop panting, despite still having a very high temperature. Cooling is still needed.
* While cooling, make sure the animal doesn’t inhale water.
What you can do to avoid heat stroke:
- Be mindful of the weather. On hot and/or humid days, exercise in the early morning or late afternoon, or not at all. Be aware that heatstroke can happen at any time of the day, including at night.
- Make sure your pet always has water available. Always have water available on dog walks.
- Never leave pets in cars or hot rooms.
- Hot surfaces, like pavement and sand, burn. If you can’t hold your hand on it, it is too hot for your pet to walk on.
- If your pet has predisposing factors to heatstroke, be extra mindful. These include: obesity, heart/cardiovascular disease, brachiocephalic anatomy of the head (also known as flat-faced or snub-nosed breeds), a thick and/or long coat, respiratory disease/breathing difficulties, and very young, or very old pets.
A common emergency seen at vets in the UAE. By recognizing heatstroke in a timely manner and providing first aid, the chances of survival of the pet increase drastically. Through this article, we hope to have informed pet owners how they can prevent, recognize and provide first aid when it comes to heatstroke. Because the safety of our fur clients is our priority, all our pet sitters and dog walkers are knowledgeable about the different aspects of heatstroke. If you would like more information about our pet sitting, dog walking, pet relocation or dog training services. Feel free to contact us, our team will be happy to help.