No one can deny that the weather has been a bit erratic lately, but summer does appear to be coming. As the temperature outside heats up so does the risk for our pets experiencing the ill effects of our Kansas weather. The risks of leaving your pet in the car for 15 minutes in 80°F heat, 10 minutes in 90°F heat and other car temperature charts are widely published and discussed, but what about just putting your dog outside for an hour or going for a summer jaunt at the lake? There are numerous situations where heat stroke can occur, but to predict a dangerous situation for our pets we need to understand what heatstroke really is.
The fundamental feature of heatstroke is a severely elevated core body temperature. A dog or cat’s normal body temperature is 100.5°F to 102.5°F and is tightly regulated by the brain. When the body temperature of your pet increases outside of this range their hypothalamus (part of the brain) is triggered and tells the body to start trying to cool itself. The body will try to cool down by panting, elevating the heart rate for increase in circulation and dilating the blood vessels to radiate heat from much skin surface area as possible. Pets will seek cool areas, drink a lot of water and generally hide out trying to cool down.
Although these cooling methods can be very effective, if the amount heat the animal is coping with exceeds their ability to get rid of it they will continue to heat up to the point of heat stroke. Stay tuned next week for the key danger zones and signs of heat stroke.