In San Diego, we are blessed with mild weather all year long. But, as summer goes on, you can expect a handful of scorching hot days, especially if you venture out into the desert areas. Owners must be prepared to prevent heat-related injuries in their pets. Generally speaking, dogs are more prone to overheating, since they often accompany you on hikes or other exertive activities. But, you need to keep a watchful eye on your feline friends, too. Help protect your cats this summer, and become familiar with the following.
Know heat injury signs in cats
Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related condition, occurs when the core body temperature rises to a dangerously high level, and can lead to organ damage, neurologic damage, or death, if not promptly treated. Heatstroke can be a problem in virtually any species, including people and domestic pets such as dogs, cats, and pocket pets. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion, which is a milder form of heat injury, are common in pets, most notably our canine companions, although cats can easily suffer from heat injuries if the opportunity is right. But, what should pet parents look out for? Overheating signs in cats can include:
- Panting — In dogs, panting is a normal, healthy way to dissipate heat. However, in cats, this behavior is highly abnormal. Cats pant for different reasons, such as overheating, stress, or because of certain respiratory conditions, and you should contact Colony Veterinary Hospital immediately if you observe your cat panting.
- Elevated core body temperature — The normal temperature range for cats, taken rectally, is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees. A temperature between 103 and 104 may indicate heat exhaustion, whereas a temperature higher than 104 could qualify for heatstroke.
- Rapid heart rate — A cat’s heart-rate range depends on many factors, but the resting rate generally sits between 160 and 220 beats per minute. Anything higher could indicate hyperthermia (i.e., overheating).
- Excessive grooming — Since most pets have only a few sweat glands on the underside of their paws, they are prone to overheating in hot weather. To keep cool, cats may lick or groom their fur to encourage evaporation.
- Progressive signs — As overheating progresses, other body systems may be affected, causing a variety of signs, including vomiting, diarrhea, stumbling or incoordination, bright red gums or tongue, or lethargy.
Know about other heat-related injuries
When it comes to pets and heat, many owners forget about other hot weather hazards. Sunburn, which veterinarians also refer to as solar dermatitis, can absolutely affect our four-legged friends, including cats. Sunburns are not only unpleasant, but also can lead to painful skin conditions, including certain cancers, if severe enough. We all know that cats love to bask in the warm sun, which is harmless much of the time. But, with too much direct sunlight, certain cats may be at risk. Hairless breeds like Sphynx don’t have a protective coat to ward off the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, making them susceptible to solar dermatitis. Cats with short, white, or lighter colored coats may also be at risk. In addition, regardless of your cat’s coat length or color, certain parts of their bodies are naturally less furry, such as the nose, ears, and inguinal areas, so keep a close eye on these areas if your cat is an avid sunbather.
Know your cat’s routine and change it as necessary
If your cat rarely ventures outside, you likely don’t have to make any changes to their daily routine. However, if they can’t live without the excitement of the great outdoors, consider some alterations, to ensure they stay safe and cool. Generally, early mornings and evenings mean cooler temps, and are acceptable outdoor times, under supervision, if possible. If your cats tend to come and go as they please, ensure they have plenty of shade and an easy-access entry back into the home or garage so they can find refuge when needed. If your pet doesn’t return at the expected time, check areas such as tool or garden sheds. These enclosures can become exceedingly hot in warm weather, and many curious cats find them intriguing. Provide plenty of fresh water in and around the home that your cat can easily find. As always, all outdoor cats should have up-to-date vaccinations and identification. Contact us if your feline friend is due for services, or for information on microchipping.
For further information on hot weather pet safety, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has additional resources you can find here. And, our Colony Veterinary Hospital team is always here to answer any questions.