Heatstroke in cats

A black and white cat yawning

When a cat overexposes itself to heat, their body temperature increases to dangerous levels, which can be fatal and this condition is known as heatstroke. Learn about the warning symptoms, causes, treatments, and strategies for preventing heatstroke in cats by reading on.

Cats' heat stroke causes

Cats can get heatstroke for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with their surroundings and their incapacity to properly control their body temperature.

Heatstroke can result from extended exposure to high temperatures, particularly in the summer. If cats spend a lot of time outside without access to shade, they become more vulnerable. They may become surprised by sudden temperature increases, particularly if they are not used to the heat. Overheating can happen quickly when the cat is confined to poorly ventilated spaces like a small room, a parked car, or an enclosure. A house in hot weather without air conditioning, fans, or open windows might feel stuffy and stuffy and that could cause heatstroke in cats.

In hot conditions, a cat's body temperature can reach dangerously high from vigorous exercise. Cool spots are essential for cats to recuperate, particularly after physical activity.

Cats who don't drink enough water may find it more difficult to control their body temperature, which increases their risk of heatstroke. Water sources should be ample and easily available during hot weather.

Cats who are overweight or obese have a harder time releasing heat, which increases their risk of overheating. A cat that is obese may find it more difficult to relocate to a cooler area or locate a cosy spot to relax. Felines who already have respiratory or cardiac issues may find it difficult to control their body temperature and those who are unwell, elderly, or very young are more likely to suffer from heatstroke. Persian cats and other short-nosed, flat-faced cats are particularly prone to heatstroke because of their ineffective panting and cooling mechanisms.

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Why cats are at such risk from heat stroke?

When a cat's body temperature climbs over average and they are unable to cool down, they may develop heatstroke, a serious and sometimes fatal condition.

The typical body temperature of a cat is between 38.1°C and 39.2°C. They are susceptible to heatstroke if their body temperature rises above 40°C. If medical attention is delayed, temperatures above 41.1°C can cause serious harm and frequently result in death.

To cool off, cats will begin to pant, however, this is less successful for cats than it is for dogs. An attempt to release more heat and a symptom of concern is an increased respiratory rate. In an attempt to release heat, the heart beats more quickly to pump blood to the skin's surface. Shock can result from the circulatory system failing due to prolonged overheating.

Dehydration can occur from excessive panting and drooling since these behaviours cause substantial fluid loss. Fluid loss can upset the electrolyte balance and impair cell activity. Kidney function can be impacted by heat exhaustion and dehydration. This can also impact the liver, resulting in additional systemic problems.

Elevated temperatures have the potential to disrupt cells, resulting in extensive tissue impairment. Damage to organs and tissues may be made worse by inflammatory reactions.

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Early symptoms of cat heat stroke

Early detection of heatstroke symptoms in cats is essential for prompt intervention and treatment. If the illness is discovered early on, it can be stopped from getting worse and perhaps fatal.

  • Panting and rapid breathing - cats don't often pant as much as dogs do, hence your cat is clearly in distress if it begins to pant. Breathing too quickly or laboriously may be a sign that your cat is overheated.
  • Overdrooling - your cat may drool excessively or salivate excessively in an attempt to cool down.
  • Restlessness or agitation - your cat may exhibit extraordinary levels of restlessness, agitation, or anxiety. They may pace or shift around a lot to locate a cooler area.
  • Red or pale gums - examine your cat's gums. The increased blood flow may cause them to turn a vibrant crimson colour. In certain instances, the gums could also seem pale.
  • Increased heart rate - another early indicator of heat stress is an elevated heart rate. By resting your palm on your cat's chest, just behind the front leg, you can feel their pulse.
  • Weakness or lethargy - your cat may appear more lethargic or weaker than normal. They could have less desire to play or engage in activities.
  • Behavioural hints - to cool down, your cat may rest on cool surfaces such as sinks, bathtubs, or tile floors.

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Advanced symptoms of cat heat stroke

Cat heatstroke can develop more severe and advanced symptoms if it continues past the initial stages. These severe symptoms point to a serious illness that needs to be treated by a veterinarian immediately.

  • Severe panting and rapid breathing - a cat experiencing significant respiratory distress may breathe forcefully and quickly. The cat may start to breathe heavily as if it were fighting for every breath.
  • Excessive salivation and drooling - the saliva may look frothy and the drooling may become more noticeable.
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea - if the cat starts to vomit and have diarrhoea, their condition may get worse and they may become much more dehydrated.
  • Disorientation and stumbling - a cat with overheating-related neurological damage may appear disoriented, stumble, or have trouble walking. The cat may become extremely weak and lethargic, possibly collapsing and losing the ability to stand.
  • Pale or blue gums and tongue - insufficient oxygenation and circulatory failure can cause the gums and tongue to appear pale, grey, or blue.
  • Seizures - due to extreme heat exhaustion and brain damage, the cat may tremble or have seizures.
  • Unconsciousness - in extreme situations, the cat may pass out, signalling a critical condition that needs to be treated immediately.
  • High fever - when a cat's body temperature rises above 41.1°C, it might cause damage to its organs and cells.

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First aid - Immediate actions to take

You must act quickly to prevent serious complications or even death if you fear your cat is suffering from heatstroke.

Move your cat as soon as possible to a cool, well-ventilated, shady environment. It is best done indoors with air conditioning or close to a fan. Try to gradually reduce your cat's body temperature by misting its fur with cool—not cold—water. Apply a sponge, towel, or a little mist of water to their body. Since the head, neck, underbelly, and paw pads aid in efficient heat dissipation, focus on cooling these areas. Avoid using ice or ice-cold water since this can narrow blood vessels and retain heat in the centre of the body.

To improve evaporative cooling, blow cool air over your cat's body using a fan. Your cat can be gently wrapped in a damp towel or placed on one. If your cat is awake and able to drink, offer small amounts of cool water to drink. If the cat is not breathing or cannot swallow, do not push water into its mouth. Offer a little Pedialyte, if it's available, to aid in electrolyte balance.

Keep an eye on your cat's temperature with a rectal thermometer. Reduce the temperature to around 39.4°C. Watch how they are doing. Seek indications of progress or regression.

Make quick contact with your veterinarian, let them know what's going on, and let them know that you are bringing your cat in for emergency care. Get ready to take your cat as soon as possible to the veterinarian. During transportation, keep your automobile cool by turning on the air conditioning or opening the windows. After arriving at the veterinary clinic, a veterinarian will offer modern treatment.

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How to prevent cat heat stroke

Establishing a secure, cool habitat and taking preventative steps to make sure your cat stays comfortable and hydrated, particularly in hot weather, are essential to preventing heatstroke in cats.

Make sure your cat has access to places that are shaded both inside and outside. Use air conditioning, fans, or screen-open windows to keep rooms cool. Give your cat access to cool surfaces for lying, such as cooling mats or tile floors. Keep cool, fresh water on hand at all times. Around your house, scatter many bowls of water. If you want your cat to drink more water, think about installing a pet water fountain. To keep the water in bowls cold, add ice cubes.

Provide pet-specific cooling mats. These mats are frequently constructed from unique, cool-to-the-touch materials. Put some towel-wrapped frozen water bottles close to your cat's sleeping spots.

During the hottest times of the day, which are usually between 10 am and 4 pm, keep your cat inside. Make sure the spaces your cat occupies have adequate ventilation. Brush your cat regularly to get rid of extra fur, especially if it has a thick coat. This aids in avoiding overheating. If your cat's thick coat needs to be trimmed, think about getting professional grooming.

When it's hot outside, stay away from intense play or activity. Playtime should be scheduled during the chilly hours of the day. Make sure your cat has an abundance of cool, shaded places to relax. Give your cat access to covered spaces outdoors so they may get away from the heat. Make sure your outdoor cat always has access to clean water.

Observe heat advisories and weather forecasts. When there is a heatwave, take extra care. Take your cat outside and engage in indoor activities to keep them occupied and out of the heat.

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