Pet Health Guide to Heat Stress, Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Unlike us humans, cats don’t sweat. Instead, they release heat by laying on cool surfaces, panting, and drinking cold water. Similarly, dogs do not sweat to cool their bodies (except a small amount through the paw pads) and primarily regulate their temperature by panting. This can be very ineffective when the temperature gets over 26 degrees celsius or when a dog is in direct sunlight, as excessive panting can also lead to respiratory exhaustion. Your dog may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion if they are a brachycephalic breed (bulldog, pug, boxer, etc.), are overweight, have a thick coat, or have other health-related problems such as heart disease.
What is hyperthermia?
Hyperthermia is the term used to describe this elevation in body temperature and it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms, as it could save your pet's life. There are three different degrees of hyperthermia which include heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These terms are often used interchangeably, however, they are different and vary in severity.Exertional hyperthermia
Although hyperthermia is more common in summer months, exertional hyperthermia can happen in any season. This is where a dog's activities generate excessive physiological heat, and their body fails to maintain adequate cooling. For example, sled dogs can suffer from exertion-based hyperthermia.Heat stress
This is the least severe of the three and most common symptoms include:
- Increased panting
- Increased thirst
This occurs when heat stress worsens and symptoms typically include:
- Heavy panting
- Weakness and/or collapse
Heatstroke can be easily avoided, however, if your pet is not treated for heat exhaustion quickly it can lead to heatstroke. Symptoms include:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Breathing difficulties
- Diarrhea (sometimes with blood)
- Incoordination or stumbling
- Sudden collapse
Signs That Your Pet is Getting Too Hot
You may not notice right away that your pet is getting too warm but some signs to look out for include:
- Your pet may look for shade
- They may appear restless/distressed, whine or become vocal
- They may appear to have trouble breathing
- A rectal temperature of 40 degrees celsius indicates heat stress
- A temperature of 41 degrees and over is consistent with heat stroke
Lots of fluid: Make sure to leave plenty of liquids around the house for your pets. KittyRade and DoggyRade’s prebiotic isotonic formula is the perfect hydration solution on a warm day. Keep it in the fridge for a cooling treat for your pets
Make your own ice pack: Freeze a plastic bottle of water and leave it in your pet’s favourite lounging spot. It can even be wrapped in a towel and placed next to them as they sleep. DoggyRade and KittyRade can also be frozen and given to your pet’s as ice cubes or in a kong for a tasty frozen treat.
Keep an electric fan nearby: During the warmest part of the day, it may be beneficial to leave an electric fan running where your pets spend their time.
Never leave your pet alone in a parked car: In as little as 15 minutes, your pet can suffer brain damage or even die from heatstroke as heat can build quickly to deadly levels in a closed car. This can even occur on sunny days that aren’t too hot.