Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pet Heatstroke - Signs & Treatment

Question: What are the signs of heatstroke in pets?
Imagine not being able to shed your winter clothes on a hot summer day, and your only means of cooling off was by panting. Dogs and cats have little choice when it comes to keeping cool in summer heat. Recognizing the signs of heatstroke will allow for prompt treatment; and time is of the essence when treating this condition.
Answer: Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to):
  • body temperatures of 104-110F degrees
  • excessive panting
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • sticky or dry tongue and gums
  • staggering
  • stupor
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • coma
  • death
It is wise to learn how to take your pet's temperature in the event of an emergency. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke. If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately!

  • Find some shade. Get your pet out of the heat.
  • Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.)
  • Cool wet cloths on feet and around head.
  • Do not aid body cooling below 103 F degrees - some animals can actually get HYPOthermic, too cold.
  • Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian, but do not force ice or water to your pet.
Just because your animal is cooled and "appears" OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this. There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that can be fatal.