Recognize the Signs of Heat Stroke in Pets

On the hottest days of the year, we take steps to ensure that we’re protected from the sun; we avoid spending excess time outside, wear protective clothing and sun block, and drink plenty of water. One thing we certainly don’t do is sit around in a fur coat, because that would just be crazy, right?

Unfortunately, when the temperature rises, our pets don’t have the same ability as we do to shed layers. Because of this, it’s very important that pet owners are aware of the signs of heat stroke as well as what to do if it happens to their pet.

If you live in, or plan to travel to, a warm-weather area with your pet, one helpful item for active dogs is a Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Vest. This vest uses natural evaporative cooling which exchanges the dog’s heat as water evaporates from the coat’s reservoir.  However, you must still be watchful for signs of heatstroke.

Signs of heat stroke in dogs

While the symptoms of heat stroke that a dog may display varies, some of the most common ones include:

  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reddened gums
  • Moist tissues of the body (i.e. paws)
  • Little or no urine production
  • Blood in the stool
  • Rapid and irregular heart beat
  • Sudden breathing distress
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly or uncoordinated walk
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Body temperature above 103° F

What to do if you recognize these dog heat stroke symptoms

  • Immediately remove your dog from the heat
  • Place your dog in your bath tub, shower, or on a surface near a hose
  • Run lukewarm to cool (never cold) water over your dog so that their entire body is soaked, ensuring that the back of their head and neck get plenty of water
  • If you decide to use a bathtub, fill it to a level where your dog’s head will be elevated so that their airway will not be compromised
  • After you’ve removed the dog from water, apply a cold pack to their head to continue to lower their temperature
  • Massage your dog’s legs; vigorous rubbing can help to improve circulation and reduce the risk of shock
  • Offer your dog as much cool or cold water as they will drink
  • Once you feel that your dog is stable, contact your veterinarian – they will recommend next steps

Signs of Heat Stroke in Cats

Dog aren’t the only pets that need to worry about over-heating in warm temperatures; cats are also at risk of developing heat stroke. Warning signs to look for in cats are:

  • Restless behavior as your cat tries to find a cool place
  • Panting
  • Moistening of tissues (i.e. paws)
  • Drooling
  • Excessive grooming
  • Redness of tongue and mouth
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid, irregular breath
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbly or uncoordinated walk
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Body temperature over 105° F

What to do if you recognize these cat heat stroke symptoms

  • Remove your cat from the heat immediately
  • Use your bathtub or sink to soak your cat in lukewarm to cool (never cold) water, ensuring that the back of their head and neck get plenty of cool water
  • Once you’ve removed your cat from the water, place a cool pack on their head and neck to continue to lower their temperature
  • Let your cat drink as much cool or cold water as they want
  • Once you feel that your cat is stable, contact your veterinarian for next steps

Seeing your pet exhibiting signs of heat stroke can be frightening. However, knowing what to do if heat stroke occurs can prevent it from becoming potentially life threatening. By taking the time to review these warning signs and the immediate care required before an emergency occurs, you will be equipped to save the life of a pet if this situation arises.

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