Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

This has been a hot spring and summer so far and we’re not to July and August yet. There have been some reported cases of heat exhaustion in pets lately and we cannot venture a guess on how many we don’t know about. We want to make sure you know how to prevent, recognize and react to heat exhaustion in your pets.

Unlike people, dogs and cats do not sweat to cool themselves, although they do have a few sweat glands in the pads of their paws but it is not enough to relieve over-heating. Their best defense is through panting and evaporative cooling through their mouth. Heat exhaustion in pets occur when their body temperature becomes elevated above the normal range. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats ranges from 99.5F-102.5F; body temperatures that rise above 106 degrees or higher are very dangerous. Your pet’s organs may begin to shut down, inflammatory cascades get started and can result in cardiac arrest and death.

The early signs of heat exhaustion can be subtle like simply being less responsive to commands and seeking shade. More severe warning signs are excessive wide-mouthed panting and reluctance to move around. Some pets may collapse or have convulsions, vomiting or diarrhea, glazed eyes, excessive drooling, rapid heart rate, dizziness, lethargy and may have gums or tongue that turn blue or bright red.

Here’s what you can do to take quick action to cool your dog down. Immediately move your dog to a cooler area; inside to air conditioning, cool tile floors or plug in a fan. If you must be outside, move your dog to the shade. You can use water to cool your pet, but it must be lukewarm, not cold. Cold water causes the blood vessels in the skin to contract and not allow heat to be realeased through the skin. If your pet is willing to drink water, small amounts are ok. If your dog has collapsed or is not starting to cool down within 5-10 minutes you need to get to the clinic ASAP. If you cat has become heat stressed, get to the clinic right away. Trying to cool a cat with water may cause stress that does not help with reducing body temperatures.

Your best defense in the hot summer months is to avoid situations that might lead to heat exhaustion. Pets who are not conditioned for the heat are at higher risk for heat related illness. Dog with short noses/muzzles (think bulldogs, pekingnese, boston terriers, etc) are most at risk even in moderate temperatures (70’s). Higher humidity days make it more difficult for ALL pets to cool themselves. Do not plan a long hike or have active play outdoors in peak heat hours. Take walks early in the morning or later in the evening. Make sure your pet has an adequate supply of cool fresh water. If your dog must be outdoors, make sure they have a shaded area, fresh cool water and if possible a kiddie pool located in the shade.

If you find your pet non responsive in a hot environment, get them moved to a car with air conditioning and get veterinary help right away. Please call our clinic at 417-725-2386. If it is after our normal business hour, the Emergency Clinic of Southwest Missouri is available.

We appreciate you choosing Gentle Care Animal Hospital for your pets care.