Heatstroke in Pets

July 11, 2022
By: Adriana Valle

Last week, we discussed the importance of keeping our pets cool this time of year. One of the reasons for taking precautions is the dangers associated with heatstroke. Today, we are breaking down heatstroke in cats and dogs. We’ll discuss how to recognize it and what to do if you fear your pet is overheating.

What is Heatstroke in Pets? 

According to the CDC, heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness in humans. “It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heatstroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.”

For cats and dogs, heatstroke is often the result of leaving pets in a confined space with little to no ventilation or water during warm weather and high humidity. For pets, heatstroke is defined as a high body temperature of between 103 to 105 degrees and above. Because dogs cool themselves off by panting, brachycephalic dogs like Pugs are more susceptible to heatstroke even in moderate temperatures. 

How to Recognize Heatstroke in Pets

Heatstroke can happen very quickly, therefore supervising pets during extreme temperatures is critical to recognizing signs before it’s too late.

Signs and symptoms of overheating include the following:

Uncontrolled panting

Disorientation

Rapid heart rate

Foaming at the mouth

Lethargy

Agitation

The pet’s tongue and gums will likely turn blue or gray due to delayed capillary refill and the pet can lose consciousness when heatstroke is advanced and could turn fatal. 

Responding to Heatstroke in Pets

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, restrain your pet as loosely as you can. Find an air-conditioned area such as a bathroom or safe space where they cannot run and/or hide. Place your cat in their carrier, stroller, or backpack and take them somewhere cool, even if it’s your vehicle with the A/C cranked high. 

If you have one, wrap your pet in a wet towel to help bring their temperature down. You can also use a hose to cool them off; starting with their paw pads and moving up to their core slowly. It’s important to avoid too fast a temperature change, therefore take your time when cooling your pet off with cold water. 

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent shock. Per First Aid for Pets, “Shock is a lack of oxygen to the tissues of the body, usually caused by a fall in blood volume or blood pressure. Shock occurs as a result of the body’s circulatory system failing to work properly, which means that the tissues and organs of the body, including the heart and the brain, struggle to get sufficient oxygen.” Heatstroke and similar dangerous conditions may lead to shock, which can lead to coma and death.

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At Shoreline Happy Paws, we take pet care and pet safety very seriously. To learn more about our employee training and pet safety protocols, visit our About Us page or contact us at info@cthappypaws.com or 860-964-0464. 

By Adriana Valle

Adriana is the owner and Chief Pet-Loving Officer at Shoreline Happy Paws. She has been a Professional Pet Sitter for over 10 years.

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