As we move into summer, the majority of the country is experiencing warmer temperatures that could potentially cause harm to our pet’s health.
Of course, some of us live in a climate that’s generally balmy on a year-round basis, like my native Los Angeles. Therefore, we warm-weather dwellers must always be prepared to reduce the chance that hot and sunny weather will sicken or injure our pets.
Are pets more-prone to heat-related illness than humans?
Yes, pets are more prone to heat-related illness than humans. Unlike people, cats and dogs aren’t able to evacuate heat in a manner permitting the body to cool to a safe degree when exposed to indoor or outdoor climates above room temperature (68-77 F).
The respiratory tract (lungs, trachea, and nasal passages) is the primary means by which dogs and cats lose heat, so pets do so less efficiently than humans who sweat through their skin. Such is why dogs and some cats may pant when exposed to warmer weather.
Pets lose some heat through their paw pads and the skin’s surface, but not in an efficiently-broad sense like we humans. Plus, most dogs and cats have a thicker and widely distributed coat of hair as compared to people. As a result, heat gets trapped inside pets’ bodies and can lead to an elevation in core body temperature above the normal range (100-102.5 +/- 0.5F).
Brachycephalic (short faced) dog and cat breeds and their mixes are especially prone to suffering from heat-related illnesses, as they don’t move air through their respiratory tracts as well as their longer-faced counterparts. Kittens and puppies, pets greater than 7 years of age, sick, obese, and mobility-compromised animals are also more prone to heat related health problems.
What happens when a pet’s body temperature elevates?
The normal canine and feline body temperature is higher than people, who tend to hover around 98.6 F. Expected mild increases and decreases are associated with activity, stress, or illness. Hyperthermia becomes dangerous when body temperatures rise above 104 F, as normal mechanisms of thermoregulation are overwhelmed.
As your pet’s temperature nears 106 F, heat stroke occurs and causes vomit, diarrhea, collapse, seizure activity, multi-system organ failure, coma, and death. Such problems don’t immediately occur and can be reversible with the appropriate precautions and treatment.
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