If left untreated, heat stroke can cause serious health problems or death in pets.
If it’s too hot for you outdoors, your pets likely feel the same way.
With temperatures shattering records across the country, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, excessive heat warnings in regions unfamiliar with such blistering conditions can put your canine and cat companions at risk of heat-related illness.
While people are coated in millions of porous sweat glands to cool themselves off, few pets have mostly on their paws, making it harder for them to regulate their body temperature.
For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion in pets because once they start, heat stroke can quickly worsen without immediate attention. If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to brain swelling, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, and abnormal blood clots.
What is heat stroke in pets?
Heat exhaustion in pets is also known as heat stroke when their furry bodies get above normal temperatures. For both cats and dogs, temperatures in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit have reached heat stroke and could be life threatening.
Heat stroke can occur when pets spend time in extreme heat, not taking breaks from play to cool off, or lacking access to water, according to the American Animal Hospital Association.
What are signs of heat stroke in pets?
Cats and dogs show similar signs of heat exhaustion, including excessive panting, drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, stumbling, redness of the tongue and mouth, rapid heartbeat, poor responsiveness, and seizures.
If your pet seems restless outside while trying to find a cool place to relax, it may be time to bring them inside, experts say.
Dogs are more likely than cats to pant to cool themselves off, but cats also groom themselves excessively to try to lower their body temperature with their own saliva.
Pets at higher risk of heat stroke
All pets are prone to heat exhaustion, but some are at greater risk than others.
Short-nosed animals such as bulldogs and Persian cats are at a higher risk of overheating because they cannot give off heat by panting as effectively as long-nosed pets. Similarly, cats and dogs who are obese, elderly, and living with heart or lung disease are at increased risk, experts say.
Thick-fur animals are also prone to heat-related diseases.
“These pets should never be exposed to the heat outside and should stay indoors with air conditioning during the summer,” the AAHA said.
How to Help Pets with Heat Exhaustion
According to experts, if your pet shows signs of heat exhaustion, you should immediately move them to a cool building and give them room temperature water so they can drink freely. You can also sprinkle them with some water and use a fan to lower their temperature.
But never try to cool your pets down too quickly, say Davis vets. Using cold or ice water can cause pets’ blood vessels in their skin to constrict, hindering the cooling process.
Also, avoid covering dogs and cats with wet blankets or towels, as this can trap the heat underneath and prevent the heat from radiating from their bodies.
When your pet’s temperature reaches around 103 degrees Fahrenheit (you can check it with a rectal thermometer) then it’s time to stop all cooling efforts. If your condition doesn’t improve within 10 minutes, it is time to go to the nearest vet office.
Don’t forget hot surfaces
While humans have shoes to protect themselves from hot sidewalks or other surfaces, pets don’t. So, experts recommend doing a simple test to see if it’s safe for your cat or dog.
According to VetsNow, pet owners should place their hand on a walkable surface for seven seconds; If it’s hard to keep it down without pain, it’s too hot for a pet to walk on.
Not only can hot surfaces burn the pads of their paws, but they can also heat pets’ bodies faster when they are lying on them. Experts recommend walking your pets on grass instead of the sidewalk, going outside in the early morning or late evening, or applying paw wax to protect and moisturize the pads when it’s hot outside.
You can cut your pet’s hair during the summer to relieve the heat, but “never shave your dog” because their fur can “protect them from overheating and sunburn,” says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals .