What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke or heat stress is a condition in pets, which is often referred to as a “silent killer”. It’s described in this way, because heat stroke isn’t perceived to be overly dangerous, when in actual fact, it’s considered a fatal condition that can quickly claim the life of your pet.
But why do pets get heat stroke in the first place? To understand the answer to this question, you need to remember that dogs and cats can’t sweat. As humans, we have the mechanisms to reduce our body temperature by sweating, then allowing the evaporation to cool us.
Pets, however, can only cool themselves down through panting. This is the reason why dogs and cats with underlying respiratory issues (brachiocephalic dogs, such as pugs and pets with respiratory disorders) find it hard to regulate their body temperature and can easily go into heat stress.
Signs of heat exhaustion in dogs and cats
Heat stroke symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable Panting
- Collapse, weakness
- Fever and high body temperature
- Vomiting, Diarrhoea
- Rapid heart rate
- Red congested gum colour
If not treated swiftly, this condition can quickly result in multiple organ failure and death.
How to treat overheating in dogs and cats
- Restrain your pet. Try to avoid muzzling, as this will limit your pet’s ability to pant and cool itself down.
- Abruptly remove your pet from the environment which pre-disposed your dog or cat to heat stress in the first place. This may entail moving your pet into a cool location, or taking your dog out of the hot car.
- Cool your pet down immediately (cold wet towels, the hose. or a cool shower are all methods of getting your dog’s temperature down). The best technique is often to repeatedly place cool towels over the dog with a fan blowing air at the same time. Focus on locations such as the back of the neck, armpits. and groin region.
- Immediately take your dog to the nearest vet clinic.
Take home advice
- Use a thermometer to monitor the cooling of your dog. This is best inserted in the anus.
- Don’t underestimate heat stress. It can kill pets very quickly.
- Do not use excessively cold water or ice, and do not overcool your pet.
- Don’t force water into your pet’s mouth, but have it available if they want to drink it.
Ways to prevent your pets from developing heat stroke
To avoid heat stress in dogs and cats, try to implement these basic measures:
- Avoid locking your pets up in hot confined spaces (cars, etc)
- Avoid over-exercising your pets.
- Always consider your pet’s breed, weight, and mentality when exercising, particularly on hot days, to ensure they don’t over-do it and go into heat stress.