Preventing and treating heatstroke in pets

We all know from experience that the sun can cause dehydration and heatstroke in humans, and the same goes for our pets.

The biggest difference is that unlike us, dogs and cats sweat minimally (through their pads). They lose most of their heat through panting.

Pets with a core body temperature higher than 40°C are suffering from heatstroke. This typically occurs on warm, humid days, and not only in high summer. We take our pets out to enjoy the weather, they run around enjoying themselves, and then suddenly get overheated.

The initial signs of heatstroke are excessive panting, bright red gums or tongue, sticky saliva, vomiting, diarrhoea, disorientation and weakness. In severe cases, you will see respiratory distress, cyanosis, blood in the vomit or diarrhoea, collapse, seizure and coma.

Should you notice any of these signs, act quickly to cool your pet down. Ice cold water can cause the blood vessels to constrict and prevent heat loss, so douse your pet with cool tap water instead. Take him off hot road surfaces and into a shaded area. Once recovered, bring your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic for further work-up and treatment.

So how do you keep your pets safe from heatstroke, while enjoying the outdoors?

• Do not take your pets out during the hottest part of the day, or if the temperature is very hot
• Make sure they always have access to fresh water to prevent dehydration
• Try and keep them off concrete and asphalt – they are so close to the ground they absorb a lot of heat
• Give them a Lion Cut – the shorter their coat the less heat they will trap

None of these steps are 100% guaranteed but by following them you are one step closer to protecting your pet. Just remember that heatstroke is life threatening and it comes on quickly, so you need to be very aware. Always keep your pets safe from heatstroke – their bodies stop working properly when the internal temperature is too high.

You can contact Ivy Cheung of Tung Chung Animal Clinic on 2988 1534, and at DB’s Island Veterinary Services on 2987 9003.