The LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has already seen two pets die of heatstroke this summer. So it’s good to remember that pets require special care at this time of year.
Dogs cannot tell us when they feel hot, so it’s the responsibility of pet owners to ensure they have sufficient shelter from the sun, an adequate supply of water to drink and a way to cool off as the heat rises.
Vet school experts also warn that it can be life-threatening to leave pets in hot cars, even if they are parked in the shade, and even for just a few minutes.
Dogs, whose body temperature is normally between 101 and 102 degrees, do not sweat like people, the experts say.
Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting to expel the heat. If the heat is not expelled fast enough, their body temperature rises. A rise to 105 degrees can cause a dog to have problems keeping up with his body’s demand for oxygen. When their temperature hits 108 degrees, a dog’s internal organs, such as the brain, can start breaking down at a cellular level.
Puppies and kittens — as well as older dogs and cats — are predisposed to heatstroke. Also, brachycephalic breeds (those with short snouts or muzzles, such as pugs and bulldogs) are at increased risk.
Signs of heatstroke include:
Rapid heart rate
Gums that change from healthy light pink to bright red or even dull, grayish-pink
Vomiting and diarrhea
If your dog exhibits these signs, move him to a shaded area, soak his coat in cool water and get him to a veterinarian immediately.
These signs can be followed in minutes or days by collapse, seizure, coma, clotting disorders and death. All pets with heatstroke need to be treated immediately and monitored carefully for a few days.