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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Preventing Heat Strokes in Pets

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As the temperature rises, our pets are susceptible to a potentially life-threatening condition known as heatstroke. Unlike humans, dogs and cats have limited ability to cool themselves through sweating, making it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature in hot weather. Heatstroke can be a serious and fatal condition, resulting in organ failure and, in severe cases, death, as detailed in the article “Heatstroke in Dogs and Cats” on the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) website.

Numerous factors contribute to the vulnerability of pets to heatstroke. Overweight animals, breeds with flat faces such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, pets with thick coats, as well as elderly or very young animals, are particularly susceptible. Additionally, as noted in the article on the RVC website, pre-existing health conditions, particularly those impacting the airways, lungs, or heart, can heighten the risk.

A cat is panting in the garden due to the extreme heat. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Timely recognition of heatstroke symptoms is essential for immediate intervention as said by experts from the RVC. Indications may consist of increased respiration, agitation, excessive salivation, inflamed gums, elevated heart rate, nausea, or gastric distress. As the ailment advances, animals may display fatigue, disorientation, debilitation, collapse, or convulsions.

According to the article “Heatstroke in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, Treatments” by Harriet Meyers on the American Kennel Club (AKC) website, as the canine’s exposure to elevated temperatures persists, his health worsens, displaying signs of shock such as pale mucous membranes, white or blue gums, an accelerated heart rate, and decreased blood pressure. The dog exhibits rapid breathing, leading to severe dehydration. Pupils dilate, the pulse becomes irregular, and the canine experiences muscle tremors. They may exhibit lethargy, reluctance to move, involuntary urination or defecation, collapse, and loss of consciousness.

The First Aid to Heat Strokes

Prompt and effective first aid is crucial in addressing heatstroke. Adopting the “cooling first, transportation second” protocol is advised for dogs, which entails relocating the animal to a cool, well-aerated space, providing limited water intake, and employing techniques such as cool/tepid-water immersion or evaporative cooling. These recommendations are outlined in the article from the RVC website. It is imperative to refrain from using ice-cold water, as it may impede blood circulation and worsen the condition.

It is important to promptly seek veterinary assistance, even if the pet shows signs of improvement, as hidden complications may exist. A comprehensive evaluation, which includes monitoring body temperature, is essential to evaluate the seriousness of heatstroke and begin proper treatment, as advised by experts at the RVC.

A cat is resting in a house with a fan in front of him. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Causes of Heat Strokes

Enhancing our comprehension of the root causes of heatstroke can assist in its prevention. Meyers, in her article on the AKC website, tells us that various factors including breed, age, fitness level, weight, health conditions, and environmental factors play a role in increasing the susceptibility to heatstroke. Dogs with brachycephalic characteristics or those restricted in enclosed vehicles face an increased risk of heatstroke.

Preventing heat-related illnesses necessitates taking proactive steps. This includes offering access to shaded areas, restricting physical activity in high temperatures, carrying water during walks, and being cautious of hot surfaces, says Meyers. Recommendations from both the RVC article, and what Meyers tells us, stress the importance of never leaving pets unattended in vehicles or in hot surroundings, providing access to clean water, and maintaining proper grooming practices to help regulate their body temperature.

Understanding and identifying the warning signs of heatstroke, as well as implementing proactive measures, are vital in protecting our pets during the hot summer season. By being aware of potential risks and taking necessary precautions, pet owners can effectively ensure the well-being and safety of their beloved companions, allowing them to enjoy the summer weather without the risk of heat-related illnesses.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist, writer, and tutor. She has been a solo parent for 17 years now because she is the wife of Jonas Burgos, a Filipino desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.


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