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Heat Stroke in Pets (Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Birds)
Summer is great, but summer heat can be a killer. The above infographic is a great rundown on how to prevent and treat heat stroke in dogs, cats, and other family pets. Remember, your pet can’t tell you when they’re getting overheated, and they may be more likely to suffer from heat stroke than you are.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Dogs and Other Pets
- Anxious expression, staring.
- Heavy panting and raspy breath, open mouth breathing.
- Bright red gums.
- Collapsing or falling down.
- Elevated rectal temperature.
- Lying flat on cool surfaces.
- Skin feels warmer than usual.
What to Do if You Think Your Dog, Cat, or Other Pet Has Heat Stroke
- Hose or spray down your pet to cool them, while providing them with cool water to drink.
- Bring your pet to the veterinarian or animal clinic right away after hosing or spraying them down.
- While driving to the vet, have your air conditioning running, or your windows down, to lower the temperature in your car.
The veterinarian will likely treat your pet’s heat stroke with IV fluids, oxygen, and a blood test to determine if organ damage has occurred. Severe cases may require hospitalization for one to ten days.
What Heat Stroke Can Do to Your Pet
- Organ Damage (Liver, Kidney, Lung, Stomach and Intestines)
- Brain Damage
- Muscle Damage
- Swelling of the Upper Airways
- Bleeding Disorders
What to Do with Pets on Hot Days
- Keep your pet inside with the air conditioning set at a reasonably cool setting. If you do not have air conditioning, block out the sun by closing blinds and drawing curtains, use fans to increase air circulation, and have a neighbor, friend, or family member check on your pet if you’re going to be out of the house for an extended period.
- Provide a shady area for your dog to escape to if left outside.
- Spray small animals with a water bottle set on a fine mist. Wet larger dogs with a hose. This is especially important if you notice signs of overheating, or if your pet is in an environment with a temperature close to or above their ideal body heat.
- Provide plenty of clean, cold water. Have two bowls of water available, in case one gets knocked over. Add ice cubes to make water extra cold.
- Provide a kiddie pool for your dog to cool down in if left outside.
- Put a shade cloth over rabbit and guinea pig cages, without covering all the way, so as to allow for air circulation to continue.
- Take dogs for walks in the early morning and in the evening, when the temperatures have dropped, not during peak sun and heat hours.
What Not to Do with Pets on Hot Days
- Don’t leave your pet in your vehicle, even if it’s in the shade and your windows are rolled down. Parked cars on hot days heat up fast and become dangerous environments for pets.
- Don’t travel with your pet in a poorly cooled vehicle. Make sure to have air conditioning running in your car on hot days, or failing that have your windows rolled down and make trips quick. Remember to offer your pet water regularly along the way, especially if they show signs of overheating.
- Don’t walk or run with your dog in the middle of the day. As stated above, go early in the morning or late at night. But if you go when it’s dark out, make sure to wear reflective clothing, and/or carry a flashlight
Average Body Temperature of Dogs, Cats, Birds, Guinea Pig, and Rabbits
The average temperate of dogs is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 to 39.2 Celsius. The average temperature of cats is about the same. Guinea pigs, birds, and rabbits are just a bit higher, and are all in the range of 99.5 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 and 40 degrees Celsius).
The closer the temperature gets to your pet’s body temperature, the harder it will be for them to stay cool, just the same as for you.
Things to Remember About Heat Stroke in Pets
- Dogs and cats with shortened faces, or snouts, are more likely to get heat stroke. These include pugs, Pekes, and bulldogs, and Persian cats. Dogs that snore or have respiratory problems are more likely to suffer from heat stroke as well.
- Dogs are eager to please their owners, are many do not know to stop playing or exercising when they are beginning to overheat, and may not stop until well past when they should. Encourage your dog to lie down and relax during hot days.
- Pets that have heart conditions, are elderly, ill, or have suffered heat stroke in the past, are more likely to have problems in the heat.
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