How to Keep Your Pets Safe this Summer
As we head into July, temperatures are rising and it is getting much hotter outside. Although you might feel extremely uncomfortable, your pets are even hotter so it is important to take all necessary measures to keep them cool and comfortable. Heat exhaustion and hyperthermia are two conditions to be aware of during this time of year, not only for your pets but for yourself as well. It is crucial to know the signs so that if your pet is experiencing either of these conditions, you will be able to identify the issue and get them help.
Hyperthermia is a condition in which the body temperature rises above normal level. For dogs and cats that is any temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, heat exhaustion is a non-fever form of hyperthermia in which the body’s heat-dissipating mechanisms cannot cope with the excessive external temperature. Heat stroke is the more concerning condition in this heat as it causes much more damage to the body. The major difference between heat stroke and hyperthermia is that hyperthermia is typically in response to inflammation in the body, whereas with heat stroke there is no inflammation.
The typical body temperature of an animal with heat stroke is around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of internal temperature (that isn’t in response to inflammation) can lead to multiple organ dysfunction. Some signs of heat stroke are: excessive panting, drooling, high body temperature, reduced urine output, and irregular heartbeat. In more severe cases, you may observe shock, vomiting, blood in the stool, muscle tremors, an uncoordinated gait, and even possibly unconsciousness.
As you can see, heat stroke can have many negative consequences for your animals so it is important to do everything you can to prevent it from happening to your animals. There are some risk factors that make an animal more susceptible to heat stroke, including: age (very young or very old), obesity, poor heart and lung condition, brachycephalic breeds, thick hair coat, and insufficient water intake. Dogs are also more susceptible to heat stroke than cats. Regardless, all animals are at risk of heat stroke when the temperature rises.
To avoid heat stroke, it is best to make sure your dog or cat (if they are outside) is drinking plenty of water, is not outside for long in excessive heat conditions, is never left in a hot car, and is not over exercised during hot spells.
If you suspect that your animal may be suffering from heat stroke it is important to take immediate action. First, you need to remove the animal from the hot environment and get them to a cool place. Get the animal covered in water especially the back of the head and neck, and apply a cool pack to their head to help lower the body temperature. In addition, you can massage their legs to help circulate blood and reduce the risk of the animal entering into shock. Finally, attempt to get the animal to drink some water. If the animal is in serious condition it should be seen by a veterinarian immediately, so that it can receive further vet care to treat the heat stroke.
-Rachel Tevere – summer intern
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