When a Pet Has a Heatstroke
Whenever I hear that a patient has a suspected heatstroke, it shakes my entire body every time. Why?
When someone gets heatstroke, there is almost always a need for the patient to be hospitalized. There is a high chance of the patient being in the life-threatening condition. Heat exhaustion is a more common condition and it is the stage before heatstroke. If we ignore the early warnings that our body tries to give us, we start getting lightheaded, then headaches and nauseated.
This is the time, where we try to get indoors and sit in front of a fan. We try to drink water & electrolytes. Usually we recover within a day or two, and everything is back to normal, right? The question is why heatstroke is more common in animals?
It is unfortunate for animals that there’s a human component which contributes to severity of heatstroke in pets. It can be because we do not give them enough water when we take them to a sandbar or beach, or it can be because we often forget the importance of shade in cooling down, even if the pet is playing in water.
Dogs especially do a lot of physical activity; they play a lot, will walk with us for hours, and even jog in hot summer afternoons if we want them to. Some dogs, especially the little ones, know when to say no and tell their owner that enough is enough and it’s time to go home, but the pleasers and hunters don’t know when to stop.
Remember, the only way for dogs to thermoregulate (lose the excessive body heat) is through panting or sweating through pads of their feet.
Overheating is not just limited to dogs; rabbits in their hutches, cats accidentally stuck in garage, birds placed near a window with sun, and most commonly any animals or humans left in the car windows up during summers can suffer from a Heatstroke in Pets.
When heatstroke starts, the temperature of the body gets higher than 104 degrees. It keeps getting higher. At about 109 degrees all the body cells start to cook and dry, the red blood cells start disintegrating, the kidneys and liver shut down and brain starts swelling. Even bone marrow starts dying. Entire body goes in to shock.
What should you do? If you even suspect for a minute that your pet is having a heatstroke, get it wet. Don’t put ice water or cold water, just the simple cool water from a bathtub, a pool or a hose. In case the temperature of the body comes down quickly, it can cause more damage to red blood cells and it can cause clotting in body as the body tries to regulate in a disordered way.
So you should put water on your pet and keep the air flowing towards it. The moving air will help the body cool down, and it will also move the air in to the lungs of the pet. Your pet’s effort of breathing increases the body temperature and it causes the tissues of the lungs to swell. Therefore, anything that can ease this will be helpful.
After taking these very important steps, you should call the vet. Do not wait until the pet becomes unwilling to move or becomes irresponsive.
At hospital, the IV fluids will be helpful in regulating temperature and repairing the loss of fluids. Depending on blood work and other clinical signs, the vet will determine the next step. It may take up to 72 hours for realizing the extent of the severe heatstroke. This is why appropriate systematic support is important for increasing the survival in such an event.
Yes Heatstroke in Pets Can Prove to be Fatal
Therefore, please, watch the pets closely, take care of them during summers and think twice before taking them anywhere, even for 15 minutes. Remember, there are no quick grocery runs and your dog does not wear shoes. Think on that.