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Finding ways to escape the heat is on everyone’s mind with the recent skyrocketing temperatures, which can cause life threatening issues for pets, as well as people. Our team at Otay Pet Vets asked Luke the Labrador retriever to present heatstroke cases he has witnessed. Luke routinely accompanies his owner, an ambulatory veterinarian, on house calls, and he has witnessed numerous pets affected by heatstroke for various reasons.

Luke the Labrador retriever: “Goldie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, was left in her backyard on a 100-degree day with no shade. She was weak and panting excessively when we got to her. Fortunately, we were able to cool her down in a cool water bath, and after some intravenous fluids, she was OK.”

Otay Pet Vets: Pets cannot thermoregulate well, so they rely mainly on panting to cool themselves, and require external ways to help keep themselves cool on hot days. Anytime the temperature is higher than 80 degrees, or if the weather is humid, you should be aware that they may struggle to keep their body temperature at an appropriate level, unless they have ways to cool down. Keep pets inside an air conditioned home on hot days. If they do go outside, ensure they have shady areas to avoid the sun, and multiple sources of drinking water. A kiddy pool or sprinklers can also help them beat the heat.

Luke: “Charles, a 16-year-old Persian cat, was left inside with no air conditioning. He was lethargic, and had started to pant and drool excessively. We cooled him down using cool towels and provided intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. He recovered after a few days in the hospital.”

OPV: You may want to save a little money on your electric bill by turning off your air conditioner when you leave for the day, but the temperature inside your home can elevate quickly. Brachycephalic pets are more prone to heatstroke, because their short face and muzzle do not allow them to circulate air through their mouth efficiently when they pant. Charles’ age also made him more prone to overheating—pets at higher risk include geriatric and overweight pets, pets affected by an illness, and brachycephalic breeds, such as Persians, pugs, boxers, and bulldogs. Take special caution to ensure these pets stay cool.

Luke: “Austin, a 5-year-old Australian shepherd, collapsed after playing fetch with his owner on a hot day. It was scary. We were able to revive him after a cool water bath and intravenous fluids. He stayed in the hospital for a week, but he is back to his normal self today.”

OPV: Pets may not realize they need a break when they are playing on a hot day. Take frequent breaks to let them cool off in a shady, well-ventilated area. On excessively hot days, avoid strenuous exercise, and walk them in the early morning and evening hours. As a pet’s body temperature increases, the inflammation damages multiple systems, including the brain, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and coagulation factors. Swelling, bleeding, and necrosis in the brain can occur, and pets may exhibit seizures or collapse as the heat affects their brain.

Luke: “Renee, a 4-year-old rottweiler, became weak and seemed to have difficulty breathing while hiking with her owner, who had unfortunately forgotten to take water. Renee became severely dehydrated. We were able to cool her down also with water, but she needed intravenous fluids for several days. Thankfully, she recovered.”

OPV: Dehydrated pets are more prone to heatstroke. Your pet should always have access to clean water, preferably multiple sources, and their water bowls should be cleaned and topped off frequently. When you hike, take bottled water and a water bowl so you can offer them a drink while on the go. This will also prevent them from being tempted to drink from natural sources that could be contaminated. When a pet’s body temperature rises, their lung tissue is damaged, resulting in respiratory distress. 

Luke: “Lenny, a 10-year-old Labradoodle, was left in his owner’s car. He was unconscious, but had vomited and had diarrhea, and was bleeding from his nose. It was terrible. His temperature was 109 degrees when we got him out of the car. Sadly, we could not save Lenny, and I am still upset about him.”

OPV: Pets should never be left in a parked car. In a matter of minutes, depending on the outside conditions, the internal temperature in a vehicle can reach dangerously high temperatures. Leaving a window cracked or parking in the shade does not prevent the heat from causing severe problems for your pet, whose normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees. Temperatures higher than 103 are worrying, and your pet is considered to be affected by heatstroke if their temperature goes higher than 105. As their temperature increases, the inflammation damages their gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and coagulation factors, causing diarrhea and vomiting, acute kidney failure, and bleeding from multiple sites. Prognosis depends on how high your pet’s body temperature reaches, and how long their temperature stays high.

Hopefully, Lenny’s sad ending has shown you how dangerous the heat can be for your pet. Keep your pet safe by not making the same mistakes as Lenny’s owners. If you are ever worried your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, do not hesitate to contact our team at Otay Pet Vets.