How To Detect And Prevent Heatstroke In Pets (For Dogs, Cats, Birds, Rabbits And Even Bearded Dragons)

Gresham Animal Hospital How to Detect and Prevent Your Pet from Heatstroke Dogs, Cats, Birds, Rabbits and Even Bearded Dragons
August can be the hottest month in the Willamette Valley. This year is looking to bring us just that. The biggest cause for concern in August is heatstroke, the technical term is hyperthermia. There is a lot of information on the prevention and detection of heatstroke in dogs, cats, and birds, but we wanted to cover some of the other types of pets that that are common as pet patients. Scroll down and find out how to detect and prevent heatstroke in dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and even bearded dragons (at Gresham Animal Hospital we don’t provide reptile care, but we can recommend a great place that does).


Signs of Heat Stroke. Dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves off, so they have to pant to circulate cooler air into their bodies. Watch out for excessive panting, drooling, and reddened gums. More serious signs of heatstroke include vomiting, diarrhea, and incoordination.
How to Prevent. Plenty of ventilation and plenty of water. Because they cool themselves off with the surrounding air, you want to make sure the temperature of the air they are circulating is not too hot. Finding a place for them in the shade makes a huge difference. The biggest cause for heatstroke in dogs is when they are left in a car. If you plan on leaving Fido in a car, make sure the window is open. If they are in a crate, make sure it is well ventilated. If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke or becomes unconscious, get him in a bathtub or hose him down immediately. If you use a hose, make sure all the hot water runs out before you cover your dog. Focus on the back of the head and the neck. Do not submerge the head underwater and avoid getting water up the nose or in the mouth. Then call your nearest animal hospital.


Signs of Heat Stroke. Cats, like dogs, pant when they try to cool down. Although they do not sweat like humans, they can sweat through their paws. If you notice that the paws are extremely damp, then they may be trying to regulate their body temperature. If your cat is grooming excessively, this is also a tell-tale sign that your cat is trying to regulate its body temperature. You can always take your cat’s temperature; 104 degrees or higher is cause for concern. More serious symptoms include a red tongue, vomiting and diarrhea, rapid pulse, and rapid breathing.
How to Prevent. Because cats are more independent you need to provide them with more options than a dog. You need multiple options for shade, multiple options for ventilation, and multiple options for water. If your cat is conscious, get her close to water as soon as possible. DO NOT force her to drink as this may lead to choking. Then contact your local veterinarian hospital for help.


Signs of Heat Stroke. Birds pant too, but it doesn’t look or sound the same as when dogs and cats do it. Panting for birds is breathing with the mouth/beak constantly open. You may notice that they are holding the wings away from the body. Finally, you may notice that your feathered friend is more agitated and anxious.
How to Prevent. The common causes of heatstroke for birds is direct sunlight on the cage. Like dogs, most causes of heatstroke happen to birds while you are transporting them in a car—make sure they are out of direct sunlight and have proper ventilation. They can also overheat when owners use heat lamps, heating pads or wrap them in towels for too long. If your bird shows signs of heatstroke, the first thing you want to do is keep your bird calm. Moving your bird to a quieter place without noise and distraction is a must. You can mist the bird with water until her skin is wet. Keep her feet and legs moist with cool water. Again, birds are prone to being anxious, a quiet environment will make your bird more cooperative. Call your local veterinarian immediately.


Signs of Heat Stroke. Unlike dogs, cats, and birds, bunnies can’t pant or sweat! The combination of hot temperatures and a thick coat of fur makes rabbits the largest at-risk animals for heatstroke. You can tell if your rabbit is at risk of heatstroke (hyperthermia) by checking the temperatures of its ears and feet. These are where they are trying to rid themselves of heat—like exhaust pipes. Other signs include breathing faster, open mouth breathing, and lack of appetite or restlessness.
How to Prevent. You can always add ceramic tile to your rabbit’s environment and keep a fan nearby for those warmer days. If your rabbit is showing signs of heatstroke, move him to a cool environment, 60-68 degrees if you can manage it. Get those ears wet and blow on them either with your mouth or fan—do not use a hairdryer (hopefully for obvious reasons). Mist the belly and hind legs with cool water. DO NOT dip in cold water, this could result in shock—which would be bad. If your rabbit becomes too distressed during the recovery efforts, stop what you are doing and let the rabbit relax.


Signs of Heat Stroke. Yes, even desert reptiles can suffer from heatstroke. With bearded dragons, the most popular reptile pet, it is a little harder to detect. First, you need to be familiar with your dragon’s normal behavior. If your dragon shows signs of lethargy, laziness, and loss of appetite these could indicate overheating.
How to Prevent. Your dragon shouldn’t be outside for more than 30 minutes to an hour in the heat. You should also slowly acclimate him to being outside in the sun in small time increments. Start at 5-10 minutes a day for a week before jumping to a full half-hour. The most important tool for preventing heatstroke is a thermostat. Any reptile keeper should have a thermostat to control the temperature of its environment.
At Gresham Animal Hospital, we do not offer pet care for Bearded Dragons but can recommend Avian & Exotics for reptile and amphibian care.
Bring your family pet in for checkups, shots, and vaccines at Gresham Animal Hospital! We have been providing personal, individualized care to our patients and their owners since 1944. Our hospital is equipped to provide the services and treatment your pet needs under one roof. Call us at 503.666.1600 to schedule an appointment for your furry family member.

“You’ll see how much we know, and you’ll know how much we care.”


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