Summer heat is extremely exhausting for the body – our pets feel that too. Dogs and cats can get heatstroke too. Unfortunately, this can quickly become life-threatening. Here you can find out how to recognize heat stroke and give first aid.
You can just enjoy the warm rays of the sun – the world seems to be turning, your head hurts and nausea is rising. Heatstroke can come faster than you think. And he can meet our pets too.
Heatstroke is even more dangerous for dogs and cats than for us humans. Because they can’t sweat as we do. It is, therefore, more difficult for them to cool off when it is very hot. It is all the more important that you pay attention to the well-being of your four-legged friends at high temperatures – and know what to do in an emergency.
When Does Heatstroke Occur?
By definition, heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises above 41 degrees. This can be caused either by the ambient temperature or by physical exertion, often a combination of both forms the basis. “Heatstroke threatens after just a few minutes from 20 degrees in the sun”, informs the animal welfare organization “Tasso e.V.”.
Pets – and we humans too – are particularly likely to get heatstroke on the first warm days of spring or early summer. This is probably due to the fact that the organism can adapt to the outside temperature. One then speaks of acclimatization. However, this takes a few days – so you have to take care of your pets, especially on the first hot days.
Every Second Heatstroke in Dogs is Fatal
Because heatstroke can end dramatically. “If the internal body temperature rises to over 43 degrees, the four-legged friend dies,” explains “Aktion Tier”. And unfortunately, that doesn’t happen that rarely, adds vet Ralph Rückert. Studies have shown that dogs that come to the vet with heat stroke have a chance of survival of less than 50 percent.
Preventing Heatstroke in Pets: Here’s How It Works
It is therefore important that dogs and cats find cool and shady places to retreat to on hot days. Pets should always have access to fresh, clean water. It can also help on hot days to shower the animals regularly in a cool shower – if they can do that with them.
For some animals, a cool tile or stone floor is enough to lie on. A special cooling mat can also provide cooling. Cold snacks like ice cubes or homemade dog ice cream are also a good idea.
How to Recognize Heatstroke in a Dog or Cat
If heat stroke does occur despite taking precautions, you should be able to identify the signs in your dog or cat. The first symptoms of overheating include:
- Panting (also with cats!);
- Staggering or other movement disorders.
If left untreated, heatstroke can lead to shock and multiple organ failure – the animal dies. If the pet is already in a life-threatening state of shock, you can recognize this from the following symptoms, among others:
- Bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes;
- Tremors and convulsions;
As a result, the animal can fall into a coma or even die. It is therefore extremely important to remember that heatstroke in a pet is always an emergency and should be treated by the veterinarian as soon as possible.
First Aid for Cats with Heatstroke
First aid can save lives – this also applies to heatstroke. The first step is always to put the animal in the shade. You should also gently cool your cat immediately. It is best to use cold, wet rags or a thickly wrapped cooling pad.
Start with the paws and legs and then slowly work your way over the rump and back to the nape of the neck. If the cat is conscious, it should also drink. You can try pouring liquid into her with a pipette.
If the cat is reasonably stable, it should still go to the vet immediately. Further measures can be taken there – for example, infusions, oxygen supply, or antibiotics. An unconscious cat must of course go to the vet immediately.
First Aid for Heatstroke in the Dog
If the dog shows symptoms of heatstroke, it should move to a cool, shady place as soon as possible. Ideally, you then soak the dog down to the skin with running water. The fur should be soaking wet so that the cooling effect also reaches the body. Make sure to use cold, but not ice-cold, water.
Wet towels that the dog is wrapped in can help as a first step. However, they hinder the evaporation effect in the long term and are therefore not useful when driving to the vet, for example.
Important: Transport to the practice should take place in a refrigerated car if possible – regardless of whether it is a cat or a dog. According to veterinarian Ralph Ruckert, cooling can be increased by airflow. Therefore, one should open the car window or turn on the air conditioning fully while driving.