We’ve got a very hot couple of days forecast for Hamilton this Sunday and Monday, so we thought it would be a good time to mention heat stroke in pets.
Who gets heat stroke? We mainly see this condition in dogs. Rarely, cats can get heat stroke, but they are much less prone to it as they modify their behaviour and seek shade whenever it gets too hot. Be aware also that rabbits are much less tolerant of heat than they are of cold.
How do I know that my pet may have heat stroke? Early signs are rapid breathing/panting, salivating, vomiting and diarrhoea, and lethargy. As the condition progresses, the animal will go into severe respiratory distress, the tongue goes a blueish colour, the pet collapses and may have seizures.
Are some pets more prone to it? Yes, dogs with underlying breathing problems or heart disease, and old or overweight dogs are more susceptible as they have greater difficulty regulating their body temperature. Dogs that are nervous or excited. or being exercised excessively also struggle to maintain a normal temperature. Cats with untreated overactive thyroids are also more prone. It is never normal to see a cat panting.
What can be done? This is very much an emergency situation, as the condition is life-threatening. Some studies have shown a mortality as high as 50%. If the clinic is far away from home then start off by hosing the dog down at home with a garden hose. You can put wet towels over the dog for the car journey, with the windows wound down to help further cooling. When the dog arrives at the clinic we do exactly the same with water hosing and wet towels with fans blowing onto them. Most will also need intravenous fluids to rehydrate them and treat shock. If the dog has blueish gums we give supplemental oxygen. Some dogs can start seizuring and need anticonvulsants and treatment for brain swelling, though this is usually a bad sign.
How can we prevent this? By not caging animals outdoors without adequate shade or water, and bringing them indoors at very high temperatures. Making sure never to leave animals in compartments, such as cars, exposed to the oven effects of the sun. Taking extra precautions with old, obese or unwell pets. Avoiding exercise during the hottest times of the day.
Good luck and stay cool!