Keeping Pets Safe in Summer
During warm weather, our veterinary clinics start to see cases of heat stroke again. Heat stroke is an emergency condition where the body becomes overheated. If severe enough, this can affect essentially every organ system including the brain, kidneys, liver, and even the animal’s ability to clot blood appropriately. Heat stroke can sometimes be fatal if severe enough.
The most well known cause for heat stroke is leaving an animal in a poorly ventilated car on a hot day. However, unventilated cars can become dangerously warm even on cooler days (think temperatures in the 70s). Besides this, there are many other causes of heat stroke, including exercising in warm weather. Our brachycephalic breeds (pugs and others with squished faces), as well as pets with a darker coat are also more prone to heat stroke than others.
Signs of heat stroke include weakness, collapse, respiratory distress, and of course, an elevated body temperature (typically > 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you think your pet is experiencing heat stroke, he or she should be taken immediately to a veterinary hospital for evaluation. Prior to transport, you can wet your pet with tepid (lukewarm) water. Using cold water actually causes blood vessels to constrict (shrink), resulting in retention of heat internally. When you are on your way, it is always a good idea to call the clinic ahead of time. However, getting your pet there safely is more important.
Once at the clinic, your pet will be rapidly assessed and treatments initiated. Typically, IV fluids are started to help with internal cooling, and the pet’s temperature is closely monitored. Internal damage can still occur even if your pet’s temperature returns to normal quickly. Bloodwork, hospitalization, and monitoring are usually recommended.
To prevent heat stroke, never leave animals in a car on a warm day, make sure to provide adequate shade and water if outside, and avoid strenuous exercise during warm weather. If your pet is a brachycephalic breed or dark in color, be especially cautious since prevention of heat stroke is far easier than treatment.