In the previous posts we identified signs of heat distress in dogs and cats. If minor symptoms do not resolve quickly and/or they progress to those of a more serious nature it is essential that corrective measures be taken quickly. There are several steps that can be achieved at home while making contact with the closest urgent care veterinary facilty. You should immediately begin to cool down your pet even before transport, especially if your trip is likely to take more than a few minutes. First, always have a rectal thermometer on hand, as part of your pet first aid kit. An accurate temperature is an invaluable piece of information when communicating with an urgent care facility. It also affords you a means of assessing your success with the first aid measures you are taking. Temperatures in excess of 105 degrees Farenheit are not uncommon in heat stroke. Prolonged periods of high temperatures can result in permanent brain damage as well as other serious illness. Rinse your pet down with cold water. Continued rinsing with a sink sprayer or hose with cold water from the head down the entire body is effective. In particular at the base of the skull adjacent to the neck is an area that is in close proximity to an important temperature regulation center of the body. Pay close attention to this area and application of an icewater pack at this location can bring the temperature down very rapidly. If unable to transport the pet to an emergency center immediately it becomes essential to monitor the temperature using the rectal thermometer every 10 to 15 minutes. Once the temperature reduces to about 102 degrees F, stop the rinses and ice pack application but continue to monitor the pet for any repeat rises in temperature. Above all seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Hyperthermia or heat stroke is a potentially fatal condition. Care must be taken to avoid prolonged exposures to unshaded high temperature environments. In the event that you suspect any possibility of heat stroke, begin first aid and seek help immediately.