December 8, 2022

Top Tips: The danger of heatstroke

Written by the Te Puna clinic team

As temperatures rise over the coming summer months, a common issue that pet owners should be aware of is heatstroke (aka hyperthermia). Unfortunately, many pet owners do not realise that their cats and dogs can overheat when the weather is hot and may only seek vet treatment when the situation has become serious.

Cats and dogs cannot respond to heat in the same way that us humans do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies that help us regulate our temperature, but dogs and cats only have a few in their feet and around their nose. Many animals rely on panting and external cooling to lose heat. Their long thick coats can also predispose them to heatstroke.

Because they’re not able to cool themselves down as easily as we can, we have to be extra careful to provide them with a cool, well-ventilated and shaded environment with access to clean fresh drinking water. Pets are very susceptible to heatstroke – and it can happen a lot faster than you may think.

Heatstroke is a very serious and life threatening condition. It can cause damage to your pet’s internal organs, sometimes to the point where they stop functioning and can be rapidly fatal. It requires urgent treatment.

Preventing Heatstroke

The good news is that you can help to prevent heatstroke by ensuring your pets are kept in appropriate environmental conditions and being aware of the symptoms so action can be taken swiftly.

  • Help your pet keep cool and enjoy summer with a bit of knowledge and a backup plan. As long as you take into consideration the following rules, both you and your pet can enjoy the Summer safely:
  • Have a cool, well-ventilated space for your pet. Good ventilation is critical because many animals lose heat by panting (evaporative cooling) which relies on good air flow. Outdoor pets should also always have access to shade.
  • All pets should have access to plenty of fresh clean drinking water at all times.
  • Never leave your pet in a car as temperatures rise extremely quickly even on mild temperature days and can kill pets rapidly.
  • Avoid exercising animals in hot weather.
  • Avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.

 Be aware of the symptoms and look out for the signs in your pet.

These include:

  • Panting which increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down
  • Little to no urine production
  • Coma

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke or they are showing signs of heatstroke, we advise the following:

  • Remove your pet from the hot environment immediately.
  • Apply or spray cool water onto the animal’s fur and skin. Then apply a fan/fanning to maximise heat loss.
  • Wetting down the area around your pet can also help. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this may worsen the problem.
  • Then take your pet to the nearest Veterinarian immediately.

Heatstroke is an emergency. Even if your pet looks like they may be recovering or you just suspect they might have heatstroke they should still always be checked by a vet.