Heat prostration is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when animals are exposed to hot environments, such as inside a car with the windows closed (or even partly open) or other unventilated enclosures. Heat prostration occurs when the body temperature is elevated to approximately 106 degrees Fahrenheit and death will occur at 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat prostration constitutes a medical emergency. Several vital organs are damaged in heat prostration including the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. Signs of heat prostration are many and varied, and not all of which occur simultaneously. Initial signs include: rapid breathing or panting; rapid heart and pulse rates; weak pulses; pale, red, or dry gums; excess salivation; decreased alertness; coma; seizures; weakness; vomiting; diarrhea; and bleeding.
Immediate measures need to be applied rapidly in order to save the animal’s life and prevent brain damage. These measures are lowering the body temperature and, if necessary, CPR. Methods to lower the body temperature include bathing the animal in cool water and then blowing air over the body. Also, ice packs should be placed in the groin and armpits, and on the neck. These measures to cool the body should be discontinued when the temperature is lowered to 103 degrees Fahrenheit because, paradoxically, hypothermia may ensue. An animal that has sustained heat prostration should be taken immediately to a veterinarian for evaluation, treatment, and monitoring.
Considering the danger to your pet’s health, and even life, it is best to avoid taking your pet with you in the car when it is hot outside unless a cool environment can be assured. Never leave your pet alone in a car when it is hot outside, even for a matter of minutes. Also, avoid exercising your pet excessively in the hot weather and make sure your pet has access to shade and plenty of water.
- Hot cars can turn into deadly death trap - even with the windows cracked. Within 10 minutes the temperature inside an automobile can rise to 160 degrees and cause irreversible brain damage and/or death to pets.
- Dogs that are kept outside need available shade and water at all times.
- Dogs should be properly groomed so that their hair doesn't get too long. Dogs with long hair are more susceptible to heat stroke and other hot weather problems.
- Avoid excess exercise with your pet when it is hot outside.
- Be mindful of hot pavements - dog paws are easily injured on super-hot streets and it is very painful to dogs.
- Always keep your dog on a leash. Animal Control Officers are enforcing the City's leash law in parks, on bike paths, and other areas of the City.
- Always read labels on garden products, bug spray, and other outdoor products to make sure they are pet-friendly.