For our four-legged friends, warm summer days can spell trouble in the form of heat stroke and heat-related injury.
Dr. Beth Parvin, a consultant with the California Veterinary Medical Board, warns that heat stroke in pets is a medical emergency that can quickly turn deadly. She advises that even after pets are removed from the heat, animals suffering from heat stroke still need immediate veterinary medical attention to avoid complications.
Dr. Parvin says leaving pets alone in a parked vehicle, even with the windows cracked, is the most frequent cause of heat stroke. Temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly soar to 140 degrees. Besides being unsafe for your animal, it’s also illegal in California.
Section 597.7 of the Penal Code states, “No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
Warning Signs of Heat Stroke:
- Excessive panting, salivating or discomfort.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Increased heart and respiratory rate.
- Mild weakness.
- Diarrhea and vomiting.
- Elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.
If heat stroke is suspected, try to cool your pet off immediately and then get your pet to a veterinarian.
Home Treatment of Heat Stroke:
- Move pet to a cool, shady area.
- Avoid ice or very cold water.
- Cool pet by spraying with or immersing in cool – not cold – water or wrap pet in wet towels.
- Wet earflaps and paws with cool water.
- Allow, but don’t force, the pet to drink cool water.
Veterinarians will treat not just the heat stroke, but also check for complications. They will:
- Lower the animal’s body temperature to a safe range.
- Continually monitor pet’s temperature.
- Give fluids, oxygen and medication as needed.
- Monitor for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart abnormalities and other complications and treat accordingly.
- Take blood samples before and during the treatment to check the clotting time of the blood, since clotting problems are a common complication.
Seek immediate veterinary medical attention to ensure your pet’s temperature returns to and stays at normal and to ensure there are no complications. Be sure you don’t lower your pet’s temperature too much as this, too, can cause complications.
With proper care and planning, heat stroke in pets can be preventable.
The Humane Society of the United States says that brachycephalic (short-nosed) animals such as pugs, bull dogs or Persian cats, and pets with long hair are the most vulnerable to heat stroke as are dogs and cats that are young, elderly, overweight or those with heart or lung diseases.
Dr. Parvin says on hot days these pets should be kept indoors in air conditioning. She says providing outside pets with access to plenty of shade and cool water is critical to their safety during hot weather.
To avoid heat stroke, be sure to limit your pet’s exercise to early mornings or cooler evenings and avoid hot pavement or gravel that can burn tender paws. Also, don’t muzzle your dog during hot weather because panting allows them to cool off.
During periods of high temperatures, cooling centers throughout California are open to the public. Some cooling centers allow entrance to pets on leashes, depending on the location. To find a pet-friendly cooling center in your area, contact your local city or county offices.
For more information about the Veterinary Medical Board, go to http://www.vmb.ca.gov/.