Knowing how to prevent, detect, and treat heatstroke could mean the difference between life and death for your pet one day.
People often associate heatstroke with high temperatures, although it can also occur when humidity levels are high, despite the temperature. Heatstroke is also possible in hot, humid, and unventilated areas indoors. To avoid heatstroke:
- Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. A parked car can become an inferno in minutes, even with the windows open, and your pet could quickly succumb to heatstroke inside. At 68 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 115 degrees in 60 minutes. At 82 degrees, even with the windows open, the temperature can reach 95 degrees in 10 minutes. At those temperatures, irreversible organ and brain damage and death will quickly occur.
- While outside, be sure your pet has access to shade and shelter away from direct sunlight.
- Fresh water should always be available for your pet, and be sure to use a sturdy bowl, especially if you’ll be away from home for a while. A water bowl that has tipped over is of no use to your thirsty pet.
Some signs that your pet is overheating include:
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Mild weakness
- Stupor or actually collapsing
- Bloody diarrhea
Short-nosed animals (e.g., Persian cats, pugs, boxers, and bulldogs) are more susceptible to heat stroke than their longer-nosed counterparts. Because of the shape of their faces, they are less effective at panting. Pets who are overweight, elderly, or have heart or lung diseases should be kept in air-conditioned rooms or in front of fans as much as possible.
As soon as you see signs of heatstroke in your pet it is imperative that you begin a cooling method. Move them immediately to a cooler location. Soak towels in room temperature to cool water and wrap your pet in them. Don't use cold or ice water because if the cooling happens too rapidly it can be detrimental to your pet. You can also place your pet in front of a fan to help reduce body temperature.
After you’ve begun to cool your pet down, call us for further instruction. Pets affected by heatstroke often require intravenous fluids, blood pressure support, or other medications depending on the severity of their condition.
If you see a pet in car in a parking lot exhibiting signs of heat stroke, the Humane Society recommends you:
Call the police department/animal control in the area immediately to report it.
Get the license number of the vehicle and enter the nearest store/business to request an emergency announcement be made.
Wait for the police to arrive.
FYI: A bill that makes it a civil offense (punishable with a $125 fine) to leave a pet in a dangerously hot car became law in Washington state in July 2015. It also authorizes animal control officers and police to break in to rescue confined animals and will clear them of liability for property damage, and can lead to felony animal cruelty charges.