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Pet Heatstroke Symptoms & Prevention

dog suffering from heatstrokeThanks to triple-digit summer heat, pet heatstroke is a serious health emergency affecting many Austin pets. Unlike humans, pets cannot sweat to cool off; they can only cool off by releasing heat through their paws or by panting. Consequently, when the temperatures are in the 90s or 100s, even minimal midday exercise can increase a pet’s at risk for heatstroke. Without prompt intervention, heatstroke can be deadly. Learning the warning signs for heatstroke – and seeking immediate pet emergency care should these warning signs occur – could save your pet’s life.

How to Reduce the Risk for Deadly Pet Heatstroke

Pet heatstroke is a serious medical emergency that can be deadly in a matter of minutes. Heatstroke is typically preceded by dehydration and heat exhaustion. Brachycephalic breeds (such as Bulldogs and Pugs), heavy-coated large breed dogs, and dogs with respiratory or heart problems are at increased risk for experience heatstroke. However, all dogs and cats can become heatstroke victims. Excessive panting, lethargy, and dark red tongue and gums are common warning signs for heatstroke. More severe symptoms include staggering, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, and a coma. If a pet every exhibits any of these severe symptoms, immediate emergency care is necessary.

If your pet exhibits the warning signs of dehydration and overheating, help your pet rest in a cool environment. Wipe your pet down with a cool towel. Be sure the towel is cool and not icy cold; a cold towel can hamper circulation and make it more difficult for your pet to cool off. Be careful not to “over-cool” your pet’s body; this can lead to hypothermia, which is just as dangerous. Finally, never assume that just because a pet has cooled and appears to be okay that everything is fine. Internal organs are impacted by increased body temperature, and blood tests or a veterinary exam may be necessary to assure that your pet is back to good health. A complex blood problem, known as DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) is a secondary complication that can also be fatal.

Dehydration, heat exhaustion and pet heatstroke can quickly escalate to serious pet emergencies requiring urgent care. While mild case of dehydration and overheating may be treated with at-home care, the warning signs of heatstroke should be taken very seriously. If your pet is vomiting, staggering, disoriented, or suffering seizures, he needs immediate pet emergency care at the nearest animal clinic. It is always better to seek care rather than follow a “wait and see” approach; delaying care can lead to deadly consequences.

Emergency Animal Hospital of Northwest Austin provides after-hours emergency care and 24-hour weekend emergency pet care. We are the premier emergency pet care provider for the greater Austin area. In the event of a pet emergency, please bring your pet immediately to either our South Austin or Northwest Austin location. Every minute matters for your pet's health.

Do you have questions about pet heatstroke prevention, symptoms or treatment? Contact our pet emergency team today at 512-331-6121.