Heat exhaustion and heat stroke in pets can be a life-threatening risk for your pet during the hot summer months. Increased body temperature, or hyperthermia, in your pets is classified as either fever hyperthermia or non-fever hyperthermia:
- Fever Hyperthermia: Due to an inflammatory process like a bacterial infection
- Non-fever Hyperthermia: Due to external cause of increased body temperature of your pet
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Pets During Summer
Hot weather in the summer can result in heat exhaustion which can lead to fatal heat stroke if you do not act quickly when your pet begins to show signs that they are too hot.
This is the time of the year when life threatening heat exposure and heat stroke happen commonly. Often the pet is left in a hot car or left outside with little to no access to water or shade. Many times they are over worked or over exercised in the heat and they are not good at limiting themselves. Here is some information that may help you understand just how quickly heat can kill. And cracking a few windows open does not change these numbers any significant amount as there is not enough air flow to cool the inside of the car.
Dogs with a restricted airway such as the brachycephalic breeds (flat faced dogs such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs) are at greater risk as clinical signs of heat stroke can occur when the outside temperature and humidity are only moderately elevated.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency and needs to be treated ASAP with controlled reduction in body temperature.
Temperatures that get too high for too long often result in irreversible damage to the body or even death.
If your dog likes to spend a lot of time outdoors, you may consider providing a “kiddie” pool with water in it for them to play in or stand in. It is best if this is kept in the shade as well. This water should be changed daily.
How Hot is it Really?
The following heat index chart was borrowed from the National Weather service and one can see that humidity can play a big part in pet heat exhaustion as well!
How Much Water Does My Dog Need?
The average dog needs about 30 ml of water/pound of body weight (or about 80 ml/kg) per day. This is basic maintenance and does not take into effect the increased need for heat, or certain medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease or diabetes, or replacement needs for increased loss from medications such as steroids or diuretics.
When the body is stressed with exercise, work, or heat exposure, the water requirement can easily double or triple. It is a good idea to allow your dog access to 2-3 times the daily requirement of fresh water throughout the day if they exercise a lot or are exposed to the heat commonly. Please don’t let the water sit in the sun and get hot as they may not be able or willing to drink it then. In addition, account for some dogs’ tendency to play in the water. Also, dogs who have been exercising a lot should be allowed the water in gradual increments as rapidly drinking can lead to other problems such as “bloat.” Water intake can be allowed but slowed in these instances by adding ice to the water. This makes the dog either eat the ice or wait as it melts.
Below is a chart to help determine water needs for your dog. These are a basic rules of thumb, but your dog may need more for their specific condition or metabolism. These should be considered minimums.
Please remember that there are 8 ounce in a cup/16 ounces in a pint/32 ounces in a quart/128 ounces in a gallon.
How Much Water Does My Cat Need?
Cats are “desert species” by nature meaning that they often require less water for maintenance of their body functions. They have very efficient kidneys which work to conserve water (as long as the kidneys are healthy). Cats’ prey in the wild is often 70%-80% water so that they very seldom will drink water by itself in the wild unless overheated. Most canned foods match this as well. Most dry foods however are about 8% water. Fresh palatable water must be readily available at all times if feeding a dry food. Cats daily still need about 20-30 ml/pound of body weight per day, but this is combined intake of food and water moisture.
Cats do not have a very strong thirst drive. This often means that they have a more difficult time adjusting for excess water loss from heat than dogs do. Even when offered water, cats on dry food often do not drink enough water to make up for what is lacking in the diet. When you combine water intake from food and water, the cat on dry food often takes in about half of what the cat on canned food takes in per day. Cats increase voluntary water intake when fed dry food but not in sufficient amounts to fully compensate for the lower moisture content of the food. In a recent study, cats consuming a diet containing 10% moisture with free access to drinking water had an average daily urine volume of 63 milliliters (ml). This volume increased to 112 ml/day when fed a canned diet with a moisture content of 75%. Several studies have shown that dry cat foods contribute to decreased fluid intake and urine volume. These often lead to kidney disease, kidney failure, or urinary crystal/stone production.
Canned Cat Food is Beneficial
So, ideally, canned cat food is actually more beneficial to cats as it most closely mimics the diet they would get in the wild. It is higher in protein and water and lower in carbohydrates … just like a mouse. Can a cat be maintained on dry food? Yes, it can, but it is at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and urinary tract disease. More specifics on dry vs. canned food for your cat should be addressed one to one with your veterinarian.