With the approaching of the warmer weather and increased temperatures comes an increased risk of heatstroke. According to Sahuaro Vista Veterinary Clinic, in Oro Valley, AZ, heatstroke occurs when a pet become extremely overheated and cannot lower its body temperature by itself. This condition can come on very quickly, and without intervention.
Heatstroke can affect any animal at any time, but is most commonly seen in pets that have been left in parked cars. A recent study showed cars parked on a partly cloudy, 93 degree day, saw temperatures increase to 120 degrees in just 15 minutes, making this a very real danger for pets. Risks include exercising in warmer weather and being left outside during hot weather—especially if there is limited access to water and shade. It is recommended to exercise your pet in the coolest hours of the day—early morning or later evening, and cool them off with a drink or a cool bath afterwards.
Under normal circumstances, animals pant to cool off. If panting is not sufficient, their bodies redirect blood to dilated blood vessels in the skin—this helps the animal radiate heat to eliminate it from the body. In a heat-stressed animal, the hotter the animal gets, the more blood is routed to the skin—and away from critical organs like the brain, kidneys and liver, causing these organs to fail.
Symptoms of heatstroke cover a wide range, including: heavy panting, vomiting/diarrhea, dehydration, collapse, seizures, coma and death. It is imperative that if it is believed that an animal is suffering from heatstroke to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Not only will the doctor externally cool the pet, but fluids may need to be administered as well. Death is common in patients with heatstroke, so time is of the essence. Stay vigilant this summer and prevent unnecessary suffering.