Here in Boca Raton, we don’t suffer the miserably cold temperatures that our northern neighbors do, but our warm climate means that we need to be aware of heatstroke dangers for most of the year. Although many pet owners are well aware of the potential hazards of warm temperatures, accidents can easily happen. Keep your four-legged friend safe from heatstroke, despite their fur coat, by noting these answers to commonly asked questions about overheating in pets. 

Question: What are the signs of heatstroke in my pet?

Answer: Keeping an eye out for the first sign of heatstroke in your pet can help prevent an emergency situation. When out enjoying the warm weather, watch for any of the following indications that your pet is overheating:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Dark red or pale gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Lack of responsiveness

At the first sign of an issue, get your pet somewhere cool and begin cooling procedures. 

Q: What characteristics make my pet more likely to develop heatstroke?

A: Some pets are more susceptible to severe temperatures, and pets who have suffered from a previous heatstroke are more likely to suffer again. Other risk factors include:

  • Young or old pets
  • Flat-faced pets, such as pugs, English bulldogs, and Siamese cats
  • Long-haired or thick-coated pets
  • Obesity
  • Breathing issues
  • Heart conditions
  • Active sporting or working breeds
  • Medical conditions

If your pet has any of these heatstroke risk factors, take special precautions when venturing outside. Limit outdoor activity during the heat of the day, and monitor your pet closely. Check out Dr. Man’s video with his friend, Rosie the pug, for more information about heatstroke prevention. 

Q: What causes my pet to overheat?

A:  While heatstroke risk is certainly greatest during excessively hot temperatures, pets can also overheat in mild temperatures. Pets left in an unventilated car on a 70-degree day can still overheat in a short period of time. Other causes of heatstroke include dehydration, excessive exercise, inadequate shade, and lack of ventilation in a room, such as a garage. 

Q: Why can’t my pet cool down?

A: Pets are not efficient at cooling down, since they can sweat only a small amount through their paw pads. Pets also cool down through panting, but they cannot keep up in extreme temperatures. 

Q: Why is heatstroke so dangerous for my pet?

A: As your pet’s body temperature rises, systemic inflammation occurs, which can lead to multi-organ dysfunction, including gastrointestinal failure, acute kidney injury, clotting issues, and central nervous system problems. The liver, heart, lungs, and skeletal muscle can also be harmed. A severe heatstroke episode can result in multi-organ injury, long-term damage, or ultimate death.

Q: What steps should I take if I notice my pet is overheating?

A: As soon as you notice your pet overheating, get indoors to a cool, well-ventilated location. You can place a pet who is still conscious in a cool—not cold—bath, ensuring their head remains above water. Avoid using ice to cool your pet, as this can cause blood vessels to constrict, and actually heat up your pet. Also, avoid wrapping your pet in wet towels, which will trap heat, rather than allow evaporation. Offer your pet small amounts of cool water to drink, put a fan in front, and monitor rectal body temperature to ensure your pet is cooling down, but not too much. As soon as your pet’s body temperature has dropped to 102 degrees, stop the cooling process before it drops any further and causes hypothermia. 

Q: How can I prevent my pet from falling victim to heatstroke?

A: Sadly, many pets die from this preventable condition. To avoid a tragedy, check the forecast, and take your pet out for brief exercise periods during the coolest portion of the day, or switch to indoor activities if the humidity level is high. When outdoors, closely monitor your pet for any warning signs of an impending heatstroke, and ensure you have plenty of fresh water, shade, and ventilation available. 

Watching your pet suffer through a heatstroke is a terrifying experience. Keep a cool head and give us a call to let us know your furry friend has overheated and you are on your way to our hospital.