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Drew: How to Tell if your Pet is Having a Heatstroke

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Recently, while watching television, a commercial sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was featured. The commercial was soliciting membership and donations to help animals who were left in the scorching summer heat without water, shade, or shelter. It featured pictures of dogs chained to a tree, fence, and other objects, all unable to seek the necessary protection desperately required to survive extreme heat such as water, shade, and/or shelter. This commercial made me realize this is not a local or statewide issue rather a national one.

During the summer months, pet owners enjoy spending long sunny days outdoors with their favorite furry companions. These outdoor activities, where they can be fun for both owner and pet, can also be potentially dangerous for pets.

Because of the ASPCA commercial and pet owners’ desire to enjoy outdoor activities with their pets, I believed it necessary to review the signs of a heatstroke in pets, especially dogs who are the most often confined.

• Signs/symptoms of a pet heatstroke: Extreme heat and humidity can cause a heatstroke in pets. Watch out for excessive panting or difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also include seizures. Other symptoms to watch for are glazed eyes, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue and unconsciousness.

• Animals at higher risk of overheating: Some animals are at particular risk for a heatstroke. The higher risk factors are if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise or have heart or respiratory disease. Certain breeds of dogs and animals are at greater risk than others, such as those with a flat face/short muzzles. The more popular breeds included in this category are boxers, pugs, French bulldogs, shih tzus and Persian cats just to name a few. They will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat and should be kept cool or in air conditioning.

• How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke: Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to visit a veterinarian.

Next week’s safety article will conclude this safety series on Keeping an Eye on Safety for your pets during extreme heat.