Heat injury risk rises for people and pets, but signs are not the same

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — When the heat index climbs into triple digits the risk of heat injury risk also rises for people and their pets.

Dr. Kari Jenkins, the veterinarian, and owner of Savannah Animal Care says she has already treated a number of animals for heat illness, including a trio of dogs that suffered heat stroke.

Jenkins says the signs of heat injury in animals aren’t obvious. “It can be very difficult to see any signs of heat stroke or heat stress in dogs and cats because they’re not as obvious about the signs. They can’t tell you that they’re ridiculously thirsty or that they’re suddenly cold or that they become flush because we don’t see those normal changes,” said Jenkins.

Heat stroke can kill dogs and cats, just like humans, but there’s an added internal risk that doubles the chance of death.

“Unfortunately with heat stroke in dogs, they go in a secondary condition that affects their ability to clot properly and some of these guys can actually bleed to death internally. It’s very, very scary and can happen very, very, quickly,” Jenkins said, adding, “Heat illness is an emergency situation. They need to be seen by a veterinarian right away.”

Extreme heat poses another problem with a common activity — the daily walk for dogs can be like a stroll on hot coals.

Dr. Jenkins says she has treated a number of dogs this summer for burns on their paws, especially on long walks.

“What people don’t realize is, especially black asphalt, it retains heat longer so that can actually happen into the early evening hours as well, even after the most intense part of the day has gone by,” said Jenkins.

The signs a dog or cat may be suffering heat stroke include greatly decreased activity, drinking unusually large amounts of water, dark urine or no urination at all, and a loss of appetite and now bowel movement.

“Early treatment and early temperature control can make the difference between a life threatening or terminal situation,” Jenkins said, adding her prescription to keep your pet from falling victim to a heat illness:

  • provide your pet with plenty of water
  • add frozen ice cubes or frozen bits of Pedialyte to encourage pets to drink
  • take plenty of breaks when outdoors
  • offer shade to your animals
  • stay out of the sun during peak parts of the day (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

For more tips on how you and your animals can stay cool in the summer heat, visit our Summer Safety page here.

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