With the temperature starting to increase over the next few months it becomes much more important to be aware of our beloved pets’ susceptibility to the heat. Heat stroke can be a catastrophic and even fatal disease in cats and dogs. It can cause problems with blood clotting, or even internal organ failure. The good news is that almost all cases of heat stroke are preventable.
1. No Hot Cars!
First and foremost, there are some precautions that need to be taken to minimize the risk for heat stroke. The most common presentation I see for any animal presented for heat stroke involves dogs and/or cats left unattended for any period of time in a car. This may seem obvious but sometimes even the most caring of animal owners leave their animals unattended in a car with no ill intentions. One may feel that it is OK to do this by leaving the car and air conditioner running. If a trip into a store takes longer than expected or the air conditioner malfunctions, the results can be disastrous. During the summer months it is simply better to just leave your animals at home.
2. Mind Their Age
Another often overlooked predisposing factor for heat stroke involves old, sick, or obese animals. Even in a temperature-controlled environment, lying in a sunny window for an extended period of time can cause the body temperature to elevate, sometimes dramatically. If your animal is old, sick (especially animals with heart disease) or obese, it is important to be mindful of where they like to situate themselves. It may be necessary to put safeguards in place to keep them from lying on a window sill for extended periods of time.
3. Water and Shade
Of course any outside animals or animals who stay outside alone will need a constant supply of fresh water as well as shade. A good habit to start is leaving plenty of extra water outside during the warmer months. It is much better to have too much water than not enough. My dogs like to play in the little plastic children’s swimming pools which they can also use to cool themselves quite effectively.
In the event that your dog or cat does become overheated it is always best to seek veterinary attention. If this happens on the weekend or after normal business hours (which it almost always does), then taking your dog or cat to an emergency clinic may be necessary. If you do have an emergency make sure you call your veterinarian or the emergency clinic prior to arriving so they can be ready for you.
Dogs may exhibit non-stop panting and may appear very lethargic or stuporous. Cats may also show signs of open-mouth breathing and are also like to appear stuporous. You may use tepid water to on your dog or cat in an attempt to cool them prior to arrival. It is important that you do not use ice cold water as this can cause blood vessels in the skin to constrict which can minimize the dissipation of heat through the skin.
Much unnecessary suffering can be preventing by taking simple precautions for your animals during the summer months. As much as we love our animals, it may be better to leave them at home and in a temperature controlled environment during the summer months. Heat stroke can be a very unfortunate occurrence which can almost always be prevented by thinking first.
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