All about heat stroke in dogs and cats - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views


Heat stroke is a common emergency in dogs and cats. Our furry friends cannot regulate their heat in the same way we do – they only have sweat glands in their paws and nose so evaporative cooling is limited. Environmental conditions such as high temperature and humidity and breed related conformation issues such as thick/long coats and short noses pre-dispose dogs and cats to developing heat stroke.

Signs of heat stroke
The signs of heat stroke are similar for dogs and cats and include:

  • High body temperature
  • Restlessness/agitation
  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Drooling – saliva is often very thick and tacky
  • Change in gum colour – gums may be dark red, pale, purple or blue
  • Severe cases may progress to vomiting and diarrhoea, increased heart rate, lethargy, collapse, ataxia, muscle tremors and seizures

Cats do not usually pant so open-mouthed breathing may be an indicator of heat stroke in a cat. Cats may also show increased grooming as they try to cool their bodies.

Treatment of heat stroke
First aid for heat stroke includes:

  • Remove your pet from the hot area
  • Thoroughly wet their body with a hose (avoiding the face as pets may aspirate water when panting) and use a fan to help with evaporative cooling
  • Wet the surface which the pet is on
  • Offer water
  • DO NOT USE ICE BATHS as this may cause pets to cool too rapidly and result in blood vessels constricting which will reduce the ability to cool themselves

Prevention is the key to ensuring pets stay safe particularly in the hot summer months.

  • Do not leave pets confined in a car or small space with poor ventilation
  • Avoid exercising your pet in the heat of the day
  • Do not walk dogs on hot surfaces – if the footpath/road is too hot for you to comfortably hold your hand on it will burn your pet
  • Ensure pets have access to plentiful water and a source of shade at all times

If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from heat stroke it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

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