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Heatstroke in Cats & Dogs

The summer months can get very hot and this can put your pet at risk for heatstroke. Today, we share information about heatstroke in cats and dogs, including steps your vet may recommend taking if your pet has heatstroke.

Heatstroke in Cats and Dogs

Heatstroke usually occurs in the summer months when it is hot and your pet's core body temperature rises above normal at a faster rate than it can cool down. This temperature rise can cause an inflammatory response, which could result in organ failure and even be fatal.

Other factors that can cause heatstroke in cats and dogs include excessive exercise, not enough shade, dehydration, and a warm/ humid environment without enough circulation, such as being in an unventilated car or being left outside on a hot day.

The following factors could increase your pet's risk of heatstroke:

  • Obesity
  • Thick fur/ coat
  • Age ( young or old pets)
  • Dehydration
  • Flat-faced pets ( Himalayan cats, Persian cats, bulldogs, Scottish terriers, etc.)

If you believe your pet has heatstroke it is considered an emergency that requires immediate veterinary care.

Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs & Cats

There are several signs you should watch out for to determine if your cat or dog has heat exhaustion/ heatstroke, including:

  • Panting (most often seen in dogs but, can occur in cats with heatstroke)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • No or little urine
  • Delirium/ mental confusion
  • Drooling
  • Red or pale gums
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  •  Red tongue
  • Heart rate increase
  • Distressed breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coma

If you notice any of these symptoms contact your vet right away as heatstroke is a very serious condition that requires urgent care.

First Aid Care for Pet Heatstroke

If you think that your pet may have heatstroke remove your dog or cat from the hot environment as fast as you can and immediately call your vet, or an emergency animal hospital for advice! They may recommend that you do the following before bringing your pet to see a veterinarian.

  • Place cool (not cold) water or cloths on the pet's bodies to help cool them down. Don't use ice packs, ice cubes or cold water as it can make their condition worse.
  • Aim a fan at them to implement evaporative cooling.
  • Keep the air conditioner on the entire time you are in the car taking your pet to the vet.
  • Your pet has to be cooled down gradually, trying to cool your cat or dog too quickly may only make the situation worse, never use ice or ice-cold water. Always follow your vet's advice.

To Prevent Heatstroke

The best treatment for heatstroke is to prevent it from happening altogether, always follow these steps to keep your beloved cat or dog safe from the heat.

  • Make sure your pet always has access to shade and fresh drinking water, especially when they are outside in the heat.
  • Keep your pet inside on hot days and only bring them outside for bathroom breaks.
  • Do not leave your pet in a car it can kill them, even on mild days the temperature in a vehicle can rise very rapidly.
  • Keep your pet off of hot surfaces with little or no shade such as asphalt, concrete, and stone.
  • Keep a water area in the shade such as a kiddie pool or sprinkler so your dog can cool themselves off and have fun while they are outside.
  • Always keep inside areas well-ventilated with fans or/ and air conditioning.
  • Do not take your pet outside for exercise during the day when it is hot out, wait for the evening time when the air is cooler.

If you believe your cat or dog has heat exhaustion or heatstroke contact our Tucson vets for emergency care. Heatstroke is considered an emergency that requires immediate attention.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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