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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

HEAT STROKE (OVERHEATING)
Heat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment. Cats do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans. They depend on rapid breathing to exchange warm air for cool air. Heat-stressed cats drool a great deal and lick themselves to spread the saliva on their coats. The evaporation of saliva is an important additional cooling mechanism. But when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by evaporation is not an efficient process. Cats with airway disease also have difficulty with excess heat.


Common causes of overheating or heat stroke:
1. Increased environmental temperature such as being left in a car in hot weather or being confined to a crate without water.

2. A short-nosed breed, especially a Persian.

3. Airway disease that interferes with heat dissipation through rapid breathing.

4. Excessive heat production caused by high fever, seizures, strenuous exercise.

Heat stroke begins with rapid frantic noisy breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes are bright red; saliva is thick and tenacious; and the cat often vomits. Its rectal temperature rises, sometimes to over 106°F. The cause of the problem is usually evident by the appearance of the cat. The condition can be confirmed by taking the animal's temperature.

If the condition is allowed to go unchecked, the cat becomes unsteady and staggers; has diarrhea that is often bloody; and becomes progressively weaker. Its lips and mucous membranes become a pale blue or gray. Collapse, coma and death ensue.

Treatment: EMERGENCY MEASURES MUST BEGIN AT ONCE. Take the rectal temperature every 10 minutes. Mild cases respond by moving the cat to cooler surroundings such as an air-conditioned building or car. If the temperature is over

106°F or if the cat becomes unsteady, apply wet cold towels or immerse the cat in cold water until the rectal temperature reaches 103°F. As an alternative, wet the cat down with a garden hose. Ice packs can be applied to the head. Stop the cooling process and dry the cat when the temperature falls below 103°F. The thermoregulatory system is not functioning normally. Further cooling may produce hypothermia.


Heat stroke is an emergency.
Cool the cat with a spray or immerse in a tub of cold water.

Heat stroke can be associated with swelling of the throat. This aggravates the problem. A cortisone injection by your veterinarian may be required to treat this.

Prevention:

1. Do not expose cats with airway disease or impaired breathing to prolonged heat.

2. Do not leave a cat in a car with the windows closed, even though the car may be parked in the shade.

3. If traveling in a car, house the cat in a well-ventilated cat carrier, or better yet an open wire cage, so the windows can be left open.

4. Provide shade and cool water to cats living outdoors in runs.


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