What is heatstroke?
Hyperthermia or heatstroke is where a high body temperature occurs, as a result of being exposed to an external heat source, such as the sun. The pet becomes unable to self-regulate its own body temperature and keep it at a normal level. This can happen at any time, but the risk of heatstroke is increased if the pet is suffering from an underlying condition such as obesity or a heart condition, but most especially if the pet simply cannot escape the heat source, such as being exercised during the daytime or left in a hot car.
Any pet can suffer from a high body temperature for many different reasons. A fever or Pyrexia is a high temperature that is a result of the body fighting off a condition, such as an infection or caused by inflammation. This is not to be confused with Hyperthermia.
Symptoms of hyperthermia
- Panting can occur with or without a rasping noise.
- The pet may feel hot to the touch.
- Sweaty paws.
- Inability to settle: trying to find somewhere cool.
- Laying in a flat position to allow the abdomen the most contact with the floor.
- The gums may be a bright red colour and feel sticky to the touch.
- High heart rate and high respiration rate.
- Unable to support own weight or staggering when walking.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from a high body temperature, it is important you seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. A prolonged period of elevated body temperature can lead to multi-organ failure and death. Intensive care may be needed and will continue to do so until the pet has resumed his or her own ability to regulate their own body temperature, or the underlying condition is treated successfully. It is therefore important that Veterinary help is given sooner rather than later.
What you can do to help
- Never leave dogs in hot cars, not even for a minute.
- Never walk your dog at the hottest times of days: walk early morning or from dusk onwards.
- Keep long-haired breeds well-groomed and clipped where appropriate.
- Provide plenty of drinking water: ensure water bowls/bottles are checked/refilled regularly.
- Keep water bowls and bottles out of the direct sun.
- Consider a water fountain for cats as they prefer to drink from moving water.
- Keep smaller pet houses out of the sun, even if the cage is indoors.
- Provide a cooling mat or tiles (without sharp edges) for smaller pets to lay on in hutches.
- Provide a shaded cool area for all pets to escape to when they want to.
- Spray dogs with cool/tepid water. (And cats if they like it!)
- If using a hosepipe for your dogs, run the water through first, as left-over water can be hot.
- Provide a dog paddling pool to keep them cool.
- Invest in cooling mats and vests.
- Cool toys and treats can be purchased for all different pets.
- Remember artificial grass can get hotter than normal grass.
- Test the floor with the back of your hand: if it burns you, it will burn them!