Pets Vulnerable To Heat Stress, Stroke

Hot and humid weather is common in the Kentuckiana area.  With this type of weather, we all take precautions to prevent ourselves from becoming overheated during daily activities.  It is also important that we as pet owners take similar precautions for our pets.

We would like to inform pet owners of the potential problems and clinical signs associated with overheating and remind owners how to avoid these problems.

Dogs and cats differ from humans in the way they dissipate heat.  Humans can easily sweat which cools the body as it evaporates.  Dogs and cats, unfortunately, lack the ability to produce significant sweat.

To cool their bodies, dogs and cats must pant (which is not as effective as sweating) or seek shade/shelter from the heat.  Because of this some pets may be more likely to suffer heat stroke.

Those pets would include any breed which has impaired breathing (such as the bulldog, Boston terrier, pug, etc.), obese pets, thick hair coat breeds (Husky, Malamute, etc.), dogs with dark hair coats, and animals which may be unable to find shelter from the heat (those left in automobiles, exercised during hot, humid days or left in fenced backyards with no shelter). Dogs do not need to be exercising to become over heated.

Animals suffering from heat stroke may show an number of signs. Excessive panting is one of the earliest signs. Dogs that are not able to reduce body temperature by panting can develop move advanced signs of heat stroke including: labored breathing, fast heart rates, bounding pulses and dark red gums which are dry to the touch.  As heat stroke progresses, the animal may progress into severe depression, seizures, shock and coma.  They may also develop multiple organ failure during this stage, causing death.

Heat stroke is preventable.  First, never leave your pet in your automobile on a sunny warm (or hot) day. Even sunny days in early spring or late fall can be warm enough to cause problems if an animal is left inside an automobile. The temperature inside your car can reach over 150 degrees in less than 5-10 minutes. Leaving the windows down several inches does little to prevent the elevation of temperature. Avoid exercising your pet during the hottest periods of the day.

Allow your pet access to plenty of water, shade, wading pools or even indoor areas on hot, humid days. If you suspect your pet is becoming overheated, cool your pet by bringing it indoors, providing plenty of water or even lightly spraying it down with water and cooling it with a fan.  If your pet is showing signs of heat stroke, it is vitally important that you seek veterinary attention immediately.  Even with aggressive medical therapy and support, the complications of heat stroke claim many pets' lives.

If you have further questions regarding heat stroke, do not hesitate consulting your veterinarian.  If they are not available during the night or on weekends, feel free to contact Louisville Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Services at (502) 244-3036.