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Heatstroke and Pets:  What Owners Need to Know

As the Summer months begin, heat can bring danger to pets.  Even on seemingly "cool" days, the risk ofHeatstroke can be alarming.  Heatstroke occurs when the pet's natural defense system cannot handle the heat building up inside his body. Dogs usually handle heat through panting.  When a dog cannot pant away the heat, his body will overheat.  Physical activity and exercise during hot temperatures can increase the chance of heatstroke.  Even a walk around the neighborhood or simple activities outside can cause heatstroke to occur. When it is hot outside, recommended times for physical activity are before 9 AM or after 7 PM.  Be aware of the of the "heat index" the weather forecast.  For example, if the temperature is 85 degrees and the humidity is 89 percent, it will actually feel like 101 degrees outside.

Never Leave Your Pet in a Car.  Even if the temperature seems mild, the internal temperature of a car could climb to dangerous levels.  A recent Stanford University study showed that on a 72-degree day, the temperature inside a closed car could climb to 116 degrees within one hour.  That tempting thought to leave your pet in the car for "just a minute" while running into a store could lead to a very dangerous or even deadly situation.


Heatstroke is a Veterinary Emergency and should be treated immediately upon recognition of symptoms which can include:  Excessive panting, profuse salivation, glazed eyes or staring, anxiety or restlessness, failure to respond to commands, confusion, gums and tongue appearing red or bright purple, muscle weakness, trouble standing or walking, collapse, vomiting, rapid heart beat, high temperature and warm dry skin.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from Heatstroke, contact your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY and begin to reduce his or her temperature by either gradually immersing your pet in COOL water (not COLD) water, spraying with cool water or applying cool packs or water soaked towels to the head, neck and feet.  You may also place him in front of a fan on low to medium speed.  Do not try to cool your pet too quickly and follow your veterinarian's advice for treatment.

Tips for preventing Heatstroke:

Keep pets inside on hot days.  Avoid excessive exercise in hot weather.  If outdoors, provide shade cover.  Even if your yard has shady areas, keep in mind shadows shift through out the day.  Also provide adequate ventilation and circulation when pets are kept in kennels or pens.

Always have fresh water available.  Be sure your pet has clean, cool water to drink at all times.  Take plenty of water when you go for a walk or outing.  Even consider wetting your dog's coat before a walk.  Keep walks at a gentle pace.  If your pet seems tired, rest a bit or stop the activity.  Limit walks to early morning or evening when the sun is not directly overhead and temperatures are more comfortable.

Keep your pet well groomed.  A pet's fur is intended to protect from the sun and insulate him/her from the heat.  If his/her coat is matted and tangled, the fur may actually trap heat.

Maintain a healthy weight.  Overweight pets will overheat much faster than a pet with a normal healthy weight.