WHAT IS HEAT STROKE?
Heatstroke is a kind of hyperthermia that usually occurs when your pet is unable to regulate its core body temperature. This happens when your pet is generating more heat than it can lose. Heat stroke can cause severe heat damage to delicate tissues in your pets’ body.
Unlike humans, cats and dogs have very few sweat glands, just a few on their paws and around their noses, so they cannot rely on perspiration to help them stay cool. Under normal circumstances your pet will be able to reduce their core temperature through panting. They may also ‘redirect’ blood to dilated blood vessels close to the surface of the skin which allows heat to leave the body.
However, things can get scary when your pet is severely overheated if their temperature reaches anything in excess of 41 – 42 degrees C. damage can be caused to almost every organ of the body.
Some pets are particularly susceptible to heat stroke especially those that are already compromised, such as obese animals and those suffering from physiological conditions
such as heart disease and diabetes.
The flat nosed breeds ie; bulldogs, pugs etc, and breeds that suffer from laryngeal spasm (when the larynx closes blocking the airway) such as Labradors, can be vulnerable particularly when stressed. Geriatrics and breeds with thick, heavy coats are also more likely to struggle in hot weather.
As summer temperatures soar, we as pet owners, need to be aware of the signs of heat stroke, how we can try to prevent it and what we can do to help if disaster strikes.
Signs and Symptoms..
Most people associate heat stroke with dogs, but cats can also find themselves in trouble. One of our own cats ‘Baggins’ suffered from heatstroke when he managed to get himself locked in our neighbour’s trailer on a very hot day. We were lucky that the neighbour heard him meowing, but Baggins was in a pretty bad state when he found him. Fortunately, our neighbour hosed him down before handing a very stressed, bedraggled cat over the fence to us! Baggins’ temperature was off the thermometer so we continued to treat him for heat stroke. He definitely lost one of his lives on that day!
If you suspect that your dog or cat may be suffering from heat stroke the first thing you must do is
cool them down. This can be easier said than done particularly with cats as they do tend to have an eversion to water.
What to do…
– Hose your dog/cat down gently or place in a basin of cool water.
– Scruff your cat – even if your cat is collapsed it will help you keep control
– Keep your pets head above water.
Apply a wet cloth around the head to try to prevent any swelling of the brain, Ice packs (or a pack of frozen peas) can be placed under the ‘armpits’ and in the groin area. If possible, use a fan to help cool down a wet pet!
If your pet is conscious allow it to drink cold water if it wants to. Call your vet and let them know you are on your way.
Because heatstroke can cause damage to internal organs and tissues it is important that you get your pet checked out by a veterinarian. Your vet will be able to monitor your pet’s temperature and he/she may need to administer intravenous fluids or other supportive treatment depending on the severity of the heat stroke.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!
We all love our pets and try our best to be responsible owners so here are some tips to help you avoid an unnecessary trip to the vet !
Temperatures can be deceiving especially on those overcast summer days. If you are planning a walk, run or hike consider the following:
1) How long will you be?
2) Will water be available en route for your pet to drink/ swim/ cool off in?
3) Will there be shady areas where you can take a break?
60g (about ⅓ cup) chia seeds
400ml unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk
3 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
cacao nibs, mixed
frozen berries, to serve