As summer heats up, so do our pets.  Please remember that heatstroke can be seen in all ages and breeds. Let’s review what heatstroke is, and how to recognize and prevent it.

What is heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a state of hyperthermia resulting in damage to tissue. It occurs when the body’s ability to generate heat outpaces its ability to dissipate it. Our brain controls body temperature.  When an animal’s core temperature starts to rise, they pant, sweat through their feet, and dilate blood vessels (vasodilation) to cool down.  Excessive vasodilation (blood pooling) leads to low blood pressure, and low circulating blood volume. Normal methods of heat loss fail, and heatstroke begins. Direct thermal damage causes kidney failure, death of digestive tissue, brain swelling, and death of liver and heart tissue. Low blood pressure causes additional organ damage and cell death. The final complication is DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation).  DIC is a process that causes bleeding and clotting in different parts of the body at the same time. It is difficult to reverse and is usually fatal.

corgi-14858_640How do you know if your pet is suffering from heatstroke?

  • Early symptoms- fatigue, vigorous panting, spooning- tongue gets thick, spoon shaped, and hangs down very low, and flushed skin.
  • The only symptom cats may have is inactivity and unresponsiveness.
  • Late symptoms -vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, rapid breathing and heart rate.
  • You can take your pet’s temperature rectally if you are suspicious. A body temperature above 104 F with any of the previous symptoms is cause for concern, and you should call your veterinarian.

What can you do if you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke?

  • You can start first aid – remove the animal from all activity.
  • Cool water plus air over the pet works best.  Put them in a tub, or hose them down, either in air conditioning, or with a fan nearby.
  • Pay particular attention to feet, face, armpits, and abdomen between hind legs.
  • Even if they seem okay, they should be seen by a veterinarian as heatstroke is a cascade of events that needs aggressive treatment to be stopped before causing permanent injury.

How can you prevent heatstroke?

You can prevent heatstroke by keeping pets inside on hot summer days, and only exercising them in the early morning or late evening.  When outside, make sure they have plenty of water.  And of course, never leave pets in cars unattended, as temperatures quickly become dangerous.

Thank you for stopping by our blog, if you have additional questions about heatstroke in animals, please contact Midlothian Animal Clinic.