The warmer weather is well and truly here, so now is the perfect time to learn about the dangers of heatstroke and how to help prevent it for our beloved fur babies. Mammals have a core internal body temperature just like humans; therefore, heatstroke is a state of hyperthermia (elevated core body temperature above the normal range for the species) resulting in heat injury to tissues. Heatstroke occurs when heat generation exceeds the body's ability to lose heat. Heatstroke is a very serious condition and can lead to multiple organ failure. Animals can die quickly if left untreated. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, contact your vet immediately and seek help.

How to avoid heatstroke
  • Keep your pets in cool, shaded areas with good ventilation
  • Do not exercise pets in hot, humid conditions
  • NEVER leave your pet in a car or vehicle
  • Provide plenty of fresh water and extra water supplies in case of spills
  • If inside your home is cooler than outside, bring them inside

Additional Risk Factors:

  • Obesity
  • Thick/long hair coat
  • Extremes in age (young/old)
  • Excessive exercise
  • Respiratory disease/breathing problems i.e. laryngeal paralysis, collapsing trachea etc.
  • Heart problems/Cardiovascular disease - Neurological disease
  • Dehydration

Which pets are most at risk?

All animals are at risk of heatstroke. However, some animals have a higher chance of running into serious problems, including brachycephalic dogs and cats (‘squishy and flat-faced’ dogs like bulldog varieties, pugs, Pekinese, and cats such as Persian and Himalayans) and smaller pets. Flat-faced dogs have serious difficulty breathing because of their short muzzles which means in hotter weather they can struggle to cool themselves. Brachycephalic breeds are 146% more likely to suffer heatstroke than other dog breeds. Smaller animals such as mice, rats, Guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, and birds are often confined to cages and hutches preventing them from moving to cooler areas once the temperature rises are also at risk.

What are the signs/symptoms of heatstroke?
Signs may vary between animals, but commonly include:
  • Relentless panting(increases as heatstroke progresses)      
  • Drooling, salivating                                    
  • Agitation, restlessness                              
  • Very “brick” red or pale gums                 
  • Bright red tongue                                     
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting, Diarrhoea (possibly containing blood)
  • Signs of mental confusion, delirium
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Little/no urine production
  • Collapse
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Written by Bonnie Parker, Veterinary Nurse.

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