Keep Cool and Carry On: Heat Stroke’s Deadly Effects on Your Pet’s Health
July 18, 2013
As summer progresses and temperatures come close to triple
digits, many of us make it a habit to protect ourselves from the
sweltering heat. Unfortunately for our pets these scorching summer
months are not only uncomfortable, but they are also a time when
the risk of heat stroke is at its highest.
"A heat stroke occurs when the body's ability to rid itself of
heat is exceeded by the heat that it is generating," said James
Barr, Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). "This results
in an increase in body temperature to the point where damage to the
internal organs occurs."
Heat stroke is a very dangerous condition, especially in pets.
If it is severe, the pet will almost certainly die if it does not
receive proper medical care immediately. "Oftentimes, the pet will
be brought to the hospital too late and will die despite our best
efforts," said Barr.
Although the initial signs of heat stroke are simply anxiety,
excessive panting, and inability to settle down after exercise,
these symptoms can quickly and severely progress into lethargy,
muscle weakness, seizures, and even death.
If you believe your pet is at risk for heat stroke, there are
several steps you should take immediately to guarantee the pet's
"The first thing you should do is take the pet's temperature,"
said Barr. "If their body temperature is above 104 degrees, they
are in danger of organ damage. Submersing the pet in cool, but not
cold, water is very helpful in lowering their temperature to a more
normal level. Since time is a crucial factor when dealing with a
heat stroke, spraying a pet down with a garden hose or immersing
them in a nearby body of water are preferred methods of cooling the
pet down. After you have started this cooling process, the pet
should be seen by a veterinarian immediately so that it can receive
prompt medical attention to prevent any further damage."
The most important way to keep your pet's temperature at a
normal range throughout the sizzling summer months is to avoid
exercising with them during the hottest parts of the day. It is
also vital to provide plenty of drinking water and to take frequent
breaks from playing outside to allow your pet to cool off and
"Often a long run in the early afternoon is the precursor to a
heat stroke episode," said Barr. "It is also very important to not
leave your pets in the car while it is not running as it can reach
dangerous temperatures very quickly."
If, after prolonged outdoor exposure, you notice that your pet
does not calm down, looks lethargic, or if you are at all worried
that they may be suffering from a heat stroke, you should
immediately contact your local veterinarian or emergency services.
"The most dangerous thing is the failure to seek veterinary
attention, as time is of the essence," said Barr.
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