Yep, it’s almost officially summer and hot weather is here for the next several months. While we, as humans, have fairly simple ways to beat the heat, it’s important for pet owners to recognize the signs if their fur-kids are getting too hot.
Heat stroke is a term commonly used for hyperthermia or elevated body temperature. Typically, if a pet’s body temperature exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit, it is considered abnormal or hyperthermic. A body temperature above 106 degrees (and without previous signs of illness) is associated with exposure to excessive external or environmental heat and would be considered heat stroke. Take note, the critical temperature where a pet can experience organ failure and death can occur between 107 to 109 degrees.
We most associate dogs as suffering from heat stroke, as they are the ones going for walks or taking hikes in potentially hot temperatures. Dogs are the ones left outside, often kenneled or chained, in the hot sun with no way to find shade. Dogs are the ones taken for car rides and, knowingly or unknowingly left inside the car as owners run a quick errand, not realizing how quickly their vehicle can heat up.
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It’s important to recognize the signs to look for in dogs who might be suffering from heatstroke. They may have elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, abnormal gum color or bruising in the gums. They also may appear lethargic or disoriented and can have seizures. Dogs don’t sweat the same way people do, meaning they can’t control their body temperature by sweating through the skin since they only have a small number of sweat glands located in their footpads. A canine’s primary way of regulating body temperature is by panting. Sometimes pure genetics can make a dog more prone to suffering heat stroke. Dogs with a restricted airway such as brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs) are at greater risk. In these breeds, clinical signs of heat stroke can occur when the outside temperature and humidity are only moderately elevated.
While not as common, cats can also succumb to heat stroke. The signs are not as clear but can include restless behavior as your cat paces searching to find a cool spot, panting, drooling, sweaty feet, rapid pulse and breathing, redness of the tongue and mouth, vomiting, lethargy, stumbling, staggering gait and a rectal temperature over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If no intervention is done, the body temperature can be high enough to cause the cat to collapse, have seizures or slip into a coma.
Heatstroke must be taken seriously. Safe, controlled reduction of body temperature is a priority. Cool water (not cold) can be poured over the head, stomach, armpits and feet, or cool cloths applied to these areas. If using cool wet cloths, these should be continually replaced, or they will start to retain heat. Ensure a continuous flow of air across your pet to help increase evaporative heat loss until treatment is rendered at your veterinary hospital. Rectal temperature should be monitored and treatment discontinued once the pet shows signs of recovery, or the temperature has fallen to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. If cooling is not stopped, the pet could develop hypothermia, which is the exact opposite and means your pet has a dangerously low body temperature.
Any long-term damage from suffered from heat stroke depends on how high the body temperature elevated, how long the hyperthermia persisted and what the physical condition of the pet was prior to the heat stroke. If the body temperature did not become extremely high, most healthy pets will recover quickly if treated immediately. Some pets may experience permanent organ damage or may die at a later date from complications that developed secondarily to the hyperthermia.
MHS Pets of the Week are brought to you by Iowa Western Community College: Daphne is a 6-year-old spayed female Pitbull mix. This darling girl just can’t get enough attention. She came to us from an over-crowded home and has lived with dogs, cats, and small animals. She suffers from some skin issues/allergies, but with treatment she’s received while at MHS, she is much improved. She will need ongoing care, so adoptive must be willing to manage her skin needs with their veterinarian. Debra is a 12-year-old spayed female domestic short hair who is also front declawed. Debra arrived at MHS as an owner surrender at the beginning of April. Her previous owner described her as independent and fearful, which is still accurate here at the shelter, but is getting much more comfortable and now enjoys some attention from staff and volunteers. Debra has previously lived with dogs and cats and did well with them. Creed is a 1-year-old Border Collie/Siberian Husky mix. Creed is a highly intelligent young man with a lot of energy who is looking for someone with lots of time to brush his luxurious coat and keep him busy! Creed loves to lounge anywhere comfortable, but can also be a great walking partner. He does do a lot of talking to other dogs and people and is especially vocal if he’s excited or bored. Creed is selective with the dogs he chooses to be friends with, and he needs a minute to warm up to strangers. Due to his activity and noise level, he would not do well in an apartment setting. Ricky is a 1.5-year-old neutered male domestic short hair who was surrendered to MHS in late May. His previous owners described him as friendly, playful and active, who has successfully lived with other cats, dogs and children. We hope one of these features pets sounds like the perfect match for you.
Check out our website at www.midlandshumanesociety.org/adopt to see other adoptable pets. MHS is open Tuesday-Friday from noon to 6 pm and Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm We are closed the third Wednesday each month for trainings, meetings and deep cleaning.