Help Your Pet Avoid Heatstroke!
Ahh, summertime. We have already weathered one heat wave and we can be sure there are more to come. This time of the year there are always warnings about heat stroke, and keeping pets inside on those hot days. We have all heard the precautions about leaving pets in cars but what is the real risk?
Heat Stroke occurs when a warm blooded animal is no longer able to self-regulate their body temperature due to environmental conditions. For our furry pets that are not able to sweat, this means the outside world is too hot for them to cool themselves down by panting. It cause hyperthermia (their body temperature gets too hot like a super fever!). What quickly follows is internal organ damage and that can lead to death or long term health problems if not immediately and aggressively treated.
At our hospitals we usually see several cases of heat stroke per season that range from a pet being forgotten in the car to a pet exercising in the heat when they were not used to it. Sometimes, just lying outside in the heat and humidity can lead to heat stroke.
Risk Factors for Heat Stroke
Pet Risk Factors:
– The very old and the very young (just like us!)
– Overweight pets
– Sudden exercise of pets not conditioned for physical activity (even at moderate temperatures)
– Underlying medical issues such as heart or respiratory disease
– Short nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, pekes or mixes of these) whose respiratory systems are less able to cope with extreme temperatures
Environmental Risk Factors:
– High temperatures especially when coupled with high humidity
– Lack of shade, water or ventilation
And of course, the CAR!
Leaving your pet in the car in the warm months is never a good idea. Even at moderate outside temperatures the inside of a car is much hotter. We posted this chart on Facebook recently but here is another look.
How do I recognize that my pet is overheated?
Signs that you need to take action, including calling us right away are:
– Excessive panting even at rest
– Dark or bright red tongue and gum color instead of salmon pink
– Sticky or dry gums
– Extreme lethargy, staggering or appearing unaware of surroundings
– Bloody diarrhea or vomit
What do I do?
– Call us right away to let us know you are coming with an emergency
– If you are delayed in transport move the pet to a cooler environment or at least shade. Use COOL water (NOT ICE WATER) to cool your pet. Using towels or cloths soaked in COOL water are best. Wrap around feet and head.
– Offer ice cubes or small amounts of water but do not force drinking
It is important to remember that even if your pet seems to recover from an over-heating episode you cannot assume that all is well. Their organ systems may have been affected and will need blood tests to evaluate their health. They may require a hospital stay for intravenous fluids and other medical support. With immediate treatment, heat stroke patients can be saved and live normally. Unfortunately, some do experience terminal changes to their brain or other organs causing them to lapse into coma and death despite the best efforts. The outcome is affected by factors such as how high and how long the pet’s internal temperature was elevated and how quickly aggressive medical treatment is started.
So how do we enjoy summer with our pets then?
– Avoid activity at the hottest part of the day
– On hot/humid days play indoors
– If pets will be outside ensure they have shade and lots of water
– Leave your pet at home when you go shopping or try to shop at pet friendly stores. If your pet must run errands with you, do not leave them in the car alone for more than a minute. Use solar shield blankets and shades for windows or kennels with portable fans and keep the air conditioning running. If you don’t have AC in the car, park in the shade, open all (not just one) windows at a safe level to allow a cross breeze. When you arrive home bring the pet in first before unloading the car.
– For the techie, there are thermometers you can mount in the car with a radio transmitter to your central locking/alarm key fob and will trigger an alarm when temperatures rise in the car. But, you must be close by to rescue the pet before the temperature becomes excessive.
– Some pets love to swim and even kiddie pools will help keep them wet and cool.
– Dog friendly beaches can be a fun way to stay cool and there are some in NJ. Check out www.bringfido.com to find some!
Have a great summer and stay cool!