Heat stroke occurs when a pet’s internal body temperature rises to 105 degrees F or higher. Heatstroke can come on quickly and result in brain damage or death. Beating the heat can be difficult for dogs and cats because they can only cool themselves through panting and sweating through their paw pads. During the “dog days” of summer, the temperature inside a parked car can climb to well above 100 degrees F in just a matter of minutes. Any time the temperature outside is over 65 degrees F, your pet should not be left in the car even for a few minutes. Heat stroke can occur at any time. Some animals are more susceptible to it and even a few minutes of exercise in the high heat of the day can trigger it.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting that doesn’t stop once cooled and rested, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, incoordination, collapse, seizures, and shock. See your veterinarian immediately if you see these signs and suspect heat stroke.
Treatment includes a SLOW reduction in body temperature. You can start by wrapping your pet in cool wet towels and bring them to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will determine if IV fluids and other cooling methods are needed. Medications may be given to control shock, seizures, or swelling of the brain.
Rabbits and guinea pigs are especially susceptible to heat stroke. Signs will be similar to dogs and cats with the exception of panting. You may see rapid breathing, incoordination, extreme weakness, and collapse. Rabbits and guinea pigs usually do not respond well to treatment and the prognosis is poor. Outdoor time should be limited during the peak hours of the day. If a rabbit is housed outdoors they should have lots of shade, good ventilation, and plenty of cool water available all the time.
Tips for preventing heat stroke include: limiting exercise to the early morning hours when temperatures are the coolest, offering plenty of water when outside or on a walk, allowing breaks in the shade if on a long walk, and never leaving a pet in the car once temperatures reach 65 degrees.
Other things to consider this summer: Never use a hose that has sat out in the sun on your pet as a means to cool him/her as this can cause severe burns. Bring water with you wherever you go. Use booties to protect your dog’s feet when walking on concrete or asphalt. If you are uncertain whether you need them, try walking across your driveway barefoot. If you can barely stand it to walk across, then your dog needs protective footwear. Also consider protective footwear when taking your dog on a hike. Often times the loose rock and gravel can abrade the pads of the feet so severely that your dog may actually stop and refuse to make it back down the mountain! Be sure your dog has been conditioned properly before tackling a large hike. Insect bites can occur. If you see swelling in the face (eyes, muzzle, ears) or along the neck, see your veterinarian immediately. This could be an acute allergic reaction. Use caution applying fertilizers or pesticides. Be sure to follow all product instructions, or ideally find a more organic option. Talk to your veterinarian before shaving your dog or cat this summer. The fur can actually provide a barrier against the heat and sun in some breeds.
Above all be safe and have fun!