We’ve reached the time of year that we have to worry about the heat. The old joke “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” holds true. We see more heat stroke and heat exhaustions in the late spring than we do during August. There are several reasons for this. The humidity plays the biggest part. With the higher humidity in the spring, pets have a harder time eliminating the heat through panting.
If your pet becomes over heated, the temperature the pet reaches, how long the pet stays overheated, how dehydrated they become all play a part of how severe the symptoms become.
Mild symptoms are lethargy, lack of appetite, and muscle weakness. This is due to dehydration along with loss of electrolytes. These symptoms can last up to 48 hours after getting overheated.
If the symptoms are worse, there are muscle spasms, diarrhea, and increased lack of responsiveness. At this point, the pet starts to lose the ability to control their body temperature. The muscle spasms will cause the body temperature to continue be elevated causing permanent damage.
Eventually, the temperature (over 105 degrees) starts to cause seizures, continuous muscle contractions, heart arrhythmias, bloody diarrhea (due to the lining of the intestinal dying off), coma and death.
Prompt intervention is important to prevent lasting damage. If possible, getting a rectal temperature and knowing how high the pets temperature determines how aggressive to treat the pet. If that isn’t possible, going by clinical signs is your only option.
If your pet is lethargic, gum color is pink, panting a lot, but able to stand and walk around, these are mild symptoms and can usually be treated by getting the pet to drink, getting them into a cooler (air conditioned) environment, and wetting their paws. Getting some electrolytes into them helps also.
If your pet is laying down and not wanting to get up, panting heavily, not wanting to drink, and gums are more red, but your pet is looking around and not having any noticeable muscle spasms, this is more severe. Placing wet towels on your pet along with wetting the mouth and running water over the feet. As their temperature gets back to normal, they will be able to stand up and be more interested in drinking. When more stable they need to be taken to the vet for treatment.
If your pet is poorly responsive, has brick red gums, having seizures, having noticeable muscle spasms/ contractions, transport to a vet ASAP with trying to cool the pet on the go to get more intensive intervention as quickly as possible.