By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
As the weather warms up and additional time is spent outdoors enjoying the sunshine, Palisadians become more mindful of heatstroke and heat exhaustion—but what about when it comes to their pets?
In humans, “heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures,” according to Mayo Clinic. “This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F or higher.”
Factors that lead to heatstroke—for both humans and their furry companions—include a warm/hot, humid environment with poor ventilation, inadequate shade or drinking water, and over exercising.
When it comes to dogs, the initial signs of over-heating include excessive panting and looking for or seeking shade, Dr. Dana DePerno with Palisades Animal Clinic explained.
“Because dogs do not sweat, they have to expel heat by panting,” DePerno said. “Some dogs may experience vomiting or diarrhea. This can quickly progress to collapse.”
Dogs that are overweight, have respiratory difficulties (such as pugs and bulldogs) and that are dark in color are at a higher risk.
DePerno explained that it’s rare for cats to be in over-heating situations—unless they are accidentally left in a car or locked into a small space that is not temperature controlled.
“Cats that are over-heating will show open-mouth breathing most commonly,” DePerno said.
Other signs of heatstroke in cats can include drooling or salivating, very red or pale gums, weakness and lethargy, or dizziness and staggering, according to RSPCA Pet Insurance.
Bunnies are another pet that are at risk of over-heating, DePerno said, so if a bunny is housed outside, it should be in a shaded area.
DePerno said that the best course of action is to avoid situations where a pet runs the risk of over-heating, but in the event of an emergency, it is important to start active cooling.
“This means providing plenty of fresh water, an air-conditioned environment if there is access to one or, if outdoors, a hose to cool them down,” DePerno suggested. “If your pet has collapsed, immediate medical attention at a veterinary facility is required.”
She said that IV fluids and temperature regulation, oxygen therapy and support may be necessary. Severe cases of over-heating have the potential to develop into the potentially fatal condition DIC—disseminated intravascular coagulation.
“The best way to avoid heatstroke is to never leave your pets in a hot car,” DePerno explained. “Do not hike during the heat of the day, and if your dog has respiratory issues, avoid excessive activity outdoors and keep your pet in a temperature-controlled environment.”
When hiking, it is important to take frequent breaks, as well as stay aware of how hot the pavement is getting, as a pet’s paw pads can be burned.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of not hiking during the heat of the day,” DePerno warned. “Early morning and late evening activity are the safest—this is true for avoiding snakebites as well.”
DePerno also suggested bringing plenty of water and choosing paths with shaded spaces for breaks, and to have the ability to get a pet to safety if they become weakened or collapse.
“If you are at all concerned about the possibility of heatstroke with your pet, you should consult your veterinarian immediately,” DePerno said. “Time is of the essence with these cases, so it’s better to seek evaluation and treatment if you are concerned.”
This piece was sponsored by the Keck family.
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