Hot Days Are Hard on Pets

How to Prevent, Detect and Treat Heatstroke

As outdoor temperatures heat up, pets may suffer from the effects of increased ambient temperatures. While problems such as squamous cell carcinoma and moist dermatitis (skin hot spots) increase along with temperatures and amount of sun exposure, the most serious heat-related health issue is heatstroke. Holistic vets recommend some simple, commonsense steps that will help and also possibly save a pet’s life.

Heat stroke in both people and pets develops when core body temperature rises and stays above a certain level. In dogs and cats, the tipping point tends to be a body temperature higher than 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This can happen more quickly in overheated dogs and cats because they don’t have the ability to sweat in order to cool off like people do; this is due to a lack of eccrine sweat glands over most of their body surface.

Panting can reduce body temperature, but is inefficient and easily overwhelmed if their temperature rises quickly and a pet can’t remove itself from the surrounding warm environment. Dogs such as pugs and bulldogs that have a short, broad skull are especially at risk due to genetically impaired breathing structures; they can easily overheat even in mildly warm weather.

Ferrets and rabbits are especially prone to heatstroke because they typically dwell in cooler temperatures. As a result, these small mammals do best when housed indoors rather than outside; outdoor time should be limited and supervised.

Heatstroke in pets is usually easy to detect for a pet with a history of being in a hot environment from which it cannot escape to cool itself in shade or water or take a refreshing drink. Excess panting, dark red gums and a “hot feel” to the ears and hairless skin of the abdomen are clues.

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