As the weather gets warmer and you and your pets get ready to head outdoors, it pays to be aware of the danger of heatstroke, to know the signs and symptoms of it, and what to do if you suspect your pet is overheating. Heatstroke in dogs and cats can be fatal if not treated immediately, but if you act early when you see the signs of it you can usually prevent the condition from becoming serious. Dogs are more likely to suffer from heatstroke than cats simply because of their differing behaviors, but both are susceptible to it if you don’t take precautions against it.
Symptoms Of Heatstroke In Pets
The signs of overheating are similar in both dogs and cats and they can include the following.
- Prolonged and excessive panting and labored, noisy breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Redness of the tongue or gums
- Lethargy and tiredness
- Glazed listless eyes
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Seeking out shade and water
- Confusion and weakness
Increased Risk Factors
Some animals are more susceptible to heatstroke because of their breed or physical condition. Pets that have thick heavy coats, are overweight or obese, very young or old pets, breeds with flat faces like bulldogs, pugs, and Persian cats, and those with health conditions are all more at risk from heatstroke.
First Aid For Heatstroke In Pets
If you see any of the signs of overheating in your pets, it’s vital that you take steps immediately to cool them down.
- Get them to shade or a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Offer them water, but don’t force them to drink.
- Slowly pour lukewarm water over them. It’s important not to use cold water as it will interfere with their natural ability to cool down by reducing blood circulation to the skin.
- Cover them with a cool, wet towel and exchange it for a fresh one every few minutes.
Once you think you’ve stabilized your pet, call your vet for further advice, even if you think your pet is OK. Some symptoms of an emergency condition might not be apparent. If your vet tells you to bring your pet to the clinic, they’ll do a complete examination including a temperature check, and they might recommend some time at the clinic for hospitalization and supportive care.
If you’d like more information about heatstroke in dogs and cats, contact the Veterinary Emergency Referral Center in Norman, OK, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.