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Posted on 06-24-2016

Heatstroke: A Summer Killer

Oklahoma summers can be brutal, and with heat indexes in the triple digits the last few weeks, we're seeing pets with heatstroke almost daily. Today we'll talk about preventing heatstroke in your pet, how to recognize the signs, and how to maximize your pet's chance of survival if the worst should happen.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke or heat exhaustion is a medical condition where the body can no longer dissipate excess environmental heat. This leads to increased temperatures in your pet's body, and if your pet's internal temperature gets too high, her internal organs may shut down. This can happen quickly, especially if pets are left in cars or superheated spaces.

Dogs and cats dissipate heat by panting. Breeds with blunt faces (Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, Persian cats) have a particularly hard time dealing with hot temperatures. 

How to Prevent Heatstroke

The easiest way is to allow pets access to cooled environments when outdoor temperatures rise. If your pet normally lives outside, this might mean allowing him or her to stay in a laundry room, air-conditioned garage, or special room in the house. Indoor pets should be walked or let outside during the cooler parts of the day. If your pet needs to live outside, make sure he or she has day-long shade, ventilation, and plenty of fresh, cool water. 

You've heard this a thousand times, but Never Leave Your Pet in the Car on Warm Days. Even a few minutes in a car can be deadly. No matter how your pet begs to go with you on errands on sunny summer days, please leave him or her home.

What Are the Signs of Heatstroke?

  • Excessive Panting
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Bloody Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Internal Temperature Over 103 Degrees

Pets who are suffering from heatstroke may actually lay in the sun as their body begins to shut down.   Heatstroke can be quickly fatal. If your pet is accidentally left outside or in a hot area, treat it as a medical emergency.

What To Do If You Suspect Heatstroke:

  • Remove pet to cooler environment. If she's conscious, allow to drink tepid (not cold) water.
  • If possible, obtain an internal temperature with a rectal thermometer, record to tell your veterinarian.
  • Place wet towels on your pet's abdomen, chest, and the pads of her feet. *USE LUKEWARM WATER. NEVER USE ICE WATER OR ICE BATHS, AS THIS SHOCKS THE SYSTEM AND CAN LEAD TO DEATH.
  • Continue to gradually cool your pet and immediately transport to veterinarian. 

Preventing deadly heatstroke in pets is simple using these tips. Stay safe and have a great summer!

-Dr. Mathews, SouthPark Veterinary Hospital


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