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heat exhaustion in cats

Heat Exhaustion in Cats
By MJ Kneiser

Because I live in the country far off the beaten path, I’m ok with letting my cats out on a nice day when I’m home and can monitor them. Our weather, however, has gone from, “When will we ever see summer?” to “It’s too d.. hot to do anything.” in one short week.

As a result, by mid afternoon it’s in the low 100?s and I’m getting my cats in early. I usually let them stay out until around 6p, but not when the temperatures soar.

Last year, during a similar early summer heatwave, I couldn’t find my cat Rusty, but figured he was out under a bush in the woods somewhere. Found him about an hour ago and he was suffering from heat exhaustion. He had been lying still under a tree somewhere, but it wasn’t enough to keep him cool. He came wobbling up to me when I called and was drooling profusely.

I quickly got him inside, rubbed him down with a damp wash cloth, gave him some fluids and fed him. As soon as he got in to the air conditioned house, he began to recover. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be 104 here – a record for this time of year and they’re all staying in.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can kill your pet in a matter of minutes. A cat's normal body temperature is 99.5 to 102.5F. If it rises to 105 your pet is at risk for heat exhaustion. If it goes higher your pet is in danger of heat stroke.

Puppies and kittens under six months of age are most at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Cats and dogs with long hair or heavy coats as well as overweight pets are at a higher risk for being overcome by the heat.

Signs your pet may succumbing to the heat, include:

• Rapid panting
• Bright red tongue
• Red or pale gums
• Thick, sticky saliva
• Depression
• Weakness
• Dizziness
• Vomiting – sometimes with blood
• Diarrhea
• Shock
• Coma

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke:

Like humans, the easiest way to prevent heat exhaustion in your pet is to keep them indoors in the air conditioning. However, if you and/or your pet are outside keep a close watch on your pet's activity. If you notice them becoming sluggish, panting heavily, or being disoriented, get them into the shade and wipe them down with a wet cloth. Give water and even ice chips, and call your veterinarian immediately.

Walk your pet in the early morning or late evening or nighttime hours.

NEVER leave your pet in a car (even with the windows partially rolled down) for any reason at any time. Leaving pets in a car during warm weather is the most common cause of heat stroke. The temperature inside a car in the summer can rise within a few short minutes to over 120 degrees F. Leave your pet at home in the air conditioning on hot days.

If your pet has to be outside during the day, make sure they have plenty of shade and fresh, cool water available at all times. Shave down long-haired dogs and yes, even long-haired cats.

The summer heat is hard on all of us, even our pets. A few simple preventative measures will ensure your best friend enjoys the summer as much as you do

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