Heat Stroke

When humans get hot, we sweat. When animals get hot, they pant. Unfortunately, panting is not the most efficient means of cooling down an overheated body.

During those hot summer months we can help our pets stay cool (and prevent heat exhaustion) by taking a few simple precautions:

  • Provide access to shade and plenty of cool drinking water.
  • Consider purchasing a kiddy pool and filling it with a few inches of clean water. This is a fun and effective way for your dog to cool down.
  • Have a well-ventilated doghouse that is kept in the shadeoften the plastic types are quite cool inside on a hot day. Doghouses aren”t only for dogsthey work for cats, too.
  • If you have a rabbit, keep the hutch in the shadein the wild, rabbits spend the hottest part of the day in their underground burrows where it”s cool.

On hot days, the best possible choice is to leave your pet at home, but if you must take him in the car:

  • Leave car windows completely rolled down for maximum airflow. Use pet-secure window screens or keep your pet in a well-ventilated kennel. Use a travel food and a water feeder to keep fresh water available.
  • Use a secure dog leash to attach your dog to a shaded post or tree while you get your groceries, deliver your package or pick up your prescription.
  • Bring a gallon of fresh, cool water and a bowl from home. Some dogs and cats appreciate ice cubes in their water. ( Hint : A six-pack cooler holds about a gallon of water.)
  • Check on your pet every few minutes.

Pets Susceptible to Heat Stroke

Certain animals are particularly sensitive to heat stroke These include:

  • young, old and overweight animals
  • animals with shortened muzzles (i.e. bulldogs, Lhasa apsos, pugs, Pekinese, Persian cats)
  • animals with heart and/or respiratory problems
  • animals with thick, heavy coats.

If your pet falls into one of these categories, minimize the likelihood of heat stroke by:

  • keeping the young, the old and the poor in health out of the heat.
  • keeping your pet at a healthy weight.
  • keeping your longhaired cat or dog clipped during the hot months.

Signs of Heat Stroke

Fortunately the signs of heat stroke are pretty obvious. When it”s hot, look for:

  • excessive panting
  • excessive salivation (drooling and swallowing)
  • a racing pulse
  • legs, nose and ears that are hot to the touch (indicates elevated body temperature)
  • vomiting.

Emergency First Aid

The first thing to do for an overheated pet is to cool her down. At the first signs of heat stroke, bring your pet indoors into air conditioning. Initially, you can treat your pet by immersing her in cool, not cold, water. Offer small sips of cool waterenough to keep her mouth moistbut do not allow her to drink.

If she continues to have problems or if the signs become more severe, take her directly to the veterinarian. On the way to the hospital, apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck and chest to keep her as cool as possible. It”s important not to overcool your petjust try to bring her temperature down to normal.