Heat Stroke In Pets

It is officially summer. It’s scorching hot here. Temperatures hover above 33°C and people are finding it uneasy, dizzy and very greasy moving around.

Dog In WaterDogs and cats are finding it uneasy, dizzy and greasy too. With temperatures jacking up to record highs, shielding off the heat is their topmost priority or else they succumb. Pant all they want, drink all they can or jump over garden sprinklers, they’ll do anything just to keep the mercury down.

However, one thing pets cannot effectively do is sweat. Though they too have “eccrine” sweat glands just like people, their eccrines are poorly isolated and situated down there on their footpads.

The sweat glands found on the skin of dogs and cats are called the “apocrines.” Apocrines are not good heat dissipators.  They function best only as oil producers for the skin.

Sweat_01To compensate for this lack of properly-placed eccrine glands, dogs have to rely on what they do best, and that is panting. Being superior to cats in the panting category, dogs are able to withstand very hot environments at longer periods at >40°C. Cats ameliorate their inferiority by licking their hair coats.

Consequently, too much exposure to a very hot environment will hamper the physiological cooling mechanisms of our pets.  With such inability, they become very prone to heat stroke. Death will follow if multiple organ failure develops. Kidneys fail, liver fails, and the heart fails. The nervous system will also fail. Everything will fail and shut down because there is just too much heat.

beach dogWhile it may be good for us to know the classical signs of an impending heat stroke, we should also look out for and correct predisposing situations. Securing pets from the damaging effects of extreme heat is much better than getting them treated for heat stroke.

For more information about heat stroke, you may see our FAQ section. Click here.

FAQ: How hot is the environment for my dog?
FAQ: It is hot today. My dog is panting, feverish and shivering. What should I do?

Header photo by astrose00 / CC BY

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