Preventing Heat Stroke in Your Pets
While we all welcome the warmth that summer brings, one of the biggest risks your pets face during the summer is the heat. Pets release heat through the pads of their feet and by panting, not sweating. This means animals are much less efficient at regulating heat and body temperature than humans.
The heat affects animals in different ways. Some pets have little problems with the extra warmth. Elderly, very young or sick animals have a harder time regulating their body temperatures, and they have difficulty staying cool. Brachycelphalic pets (those with a shortened, "pushed-in" nose) can't pant effectively in the heat. Overweight dogs have extra layers of insulation that trap heat and restrict their panting.
As a result, heat stroke is one of the biggest concerns during the summer. This happens when the animal’s internal cooling system goes into overtime and eventually stops working. This causes the body temperature to rise to the point where brain damage and other internal damage can occur - in as little as 15 minutes! A pet’s normal temperature is 100.5-102.5º Fahrenheit, but heat stroke can cause temperatures up to 104-110º Fahrenheit, which can be deadly.
If you start noticing excessive panting and salivation, anxiety, disorientation, weakness, fever, rapid heartbeat and more, these are all signs of heat stroke. This can be fatal if it's left untreated, so contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Move them to an air-conditioned or shaded area, and then apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest. Immersion in a cool (NOT cold) bath can also help lower their body temperature. Your veterinarian may administer IV fluids to counteract shock or medications to prevent brain damage.
Outside exercise and playtime are important parts of keeping your pets healthy, so make sure you know the safe ways to play during the summer months. Keep walks to a gentle pace, taking advantage of the cooler hours during the early morning and late evening. Since they release heat through their feet, let them walk on the grass, not the hot sidewalk or pavement. Most importantly, make sure they have access to plenty of water as you walk.
If your dog lives outside, make sure he has adequate shelter from the sun and heat, as well as plenty of clean, cool fresh water. Also, never leave your dog inside a vehicle, even if it's "just for a minute." On mild days, interior temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit - imagine how hot it can get when the outside temperatures are in the 90's or higher!
Summer is a time for outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. With the right preparation, you can make sure your pets enjoy the weather as much as you do!
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.
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