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Heat Stroke
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
  By: Kingsdale Animal Hospital  In: Pet Health

Heat Stroke

We are anticipating a VERY hot and humid summer here in Ontario! Getting outside and enjoying the summer is important, whether that be in the backyard or the park or the beach (remember to practice social distancing). Keep in mind the summer heat affects our pets as well. Heat stroke can affect both people and pets when we are out in the sun for too long. Certain breeds of cats and dogs are more predisposed to succumbing to the effects of the heat. 

Brachycephalic, or short-nosed breeds, including English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Himalayan cats, and Persian cats are more likely to have difficulty breathing in hot weather. All pets, but especially these breeds, should be kept indoors as much as possible during heat waves and taken outside in the cooler part of the day (early morning and late evening). Regardless of breed, any animal should not be outside for a prolonged period of time on hot days. If your pet has a heart condition or a respiratory condition, the heat and humidity can make it harder for them to breathe as well. Please limit their time outside on hot days and try to go out during the cooler parts of the day. During heat waves, it is best to do your daily walks with your dog in the cooler parts of the day. If you let your cat roam outdoors, they should also be restricted to cooler parts of the day.  When animals are outside they should always have access to ample fresh, cool water and shade.

Another important part to avoiding heat stroke is to never leave you pet unattended in a vehicle, even if you are only away for a few minutes. The number one cause of heat stroke in pets is being left in a locked vehicle in warm weather.

Signs of heat stroke include:
- High body temperature
- Rapid breathing
- Collapse
- Spontaneous bruising or blood in stool or vomit
- Disorientation
- Rapid heart rate
- Dehydration
- Seizures

What to do if you notice signs of heat stroke in your pet:
- Call us or a veterinary emergency clinic to bring them in ASAP.
- Begin cooling by placing towels presoaked in cool water on their body. Applying some cool water to the hairless parts of the body (paw pads, armpits) can help as well but avoid getting the coat wet if your pet has a thick haircoat since wet, thick hair can act as insulation.
- Get the pet into an air conditioned vehicle or area or use a fan to cool them down as well on the way to the vet clinic.
- DO NOT immerse a pet into an ice bath or apply ice packs to their body. The application of ice results in local vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels in the area) and actually prevents heat loss from the body.

What happens once you get to the clinic?
- The veterinarian will examine your pet and assess your pet's temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, gum colour, hydration status.
- The veterinary team will continue to actively cool your pet with water and may shave them as well.
- The veterinary team will start the rehydration process via IV fluids.
- Bloodwork and urine will be checked to assess your pet's kidney function, blood clotting ability, and other parameters. Heatstroke is known to impair the ability of the blood to clot properly and can affect the prognosis.

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