With a heat wave scorching the East Coast this week, the American Red Cross encourages pet owners to pay attention to how the heat is affecting your furry friends.
Heat stroke (hyperthermia) occurs when a pet severely overheats. The good news is if the heat stroke hasn’t advanced too far (with body temperature of more than 104° F), you can help your pet recover.
Common causes of heat stroke include: a previous episode of heat stroke, leaving a pet in a parked car, excessive exercise in hot, humid weather (this may be exercise that your pet can usually handle but not in warmer weather), lack of appropriate shelter outdoors, thicker-coated pets in warm weather and underlying disease such as upper airway, heart of lung disease.
The Humane Society of the United States Pet Tips
If you do happen to see a pet alone in a car during hot weather, alert the management of the store where the car is parked. If the owner does not return promptly, call local animal control or the police department immediately.
Check with your veterinarian to see if your pets should be taking heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can be fatal in both dogs and cats. Another warm weather threat is fleas and ticks. Use only flea and tick treatments recommended by your veterinarian. Some over-the-counter flea and tick products can be toxic, even when used according to instructions.
Recognizing the Signs of a Heat Stroke
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: collapse, body temperature 104° F or above, bloody diarrhea or vomit, depression stupor, seizures or coma, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, salivation.
If you suspect heat stroke:
During a heat crisis, the goal is always to decrease the pet’s body temperature to 103° F in the first 10-15 minutes. Once 103° F is reached, you must stop the cooling process because the body temperature will continue to decrease and can plummet dangerously low if you continue to cool the pet for too long.
Even if you successfully cool your pet down to 103° F in the first 10-15 minutes, you must take the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible because consequences of heat stroke will not show up for hours or even days. Potential problems include abnormal heart rhythms, kidney failure, neurological problems and respiratory arrest.
Learn more about pet safety.