Animal Rescue of New Orleans: Heat stroke is a danger for furry friends

Spring and summer are for outdoor fun with your pet. But with rising temperatures, heat stroke becomes a real risk.

Heat stroke — the medical name for the inability to regulate body temperature — can cause temporary or permanent organ damage, and is, at minimum, extremely uncomfortable for either cat or dog.

Keep pets cool and hydrated during hot weather. Make sure there is plenty of cool (not cold) fresh water available, both indoors and out. Place water bowls in a cool, shady spot when you play with your pet outside, and never tie up or confine your dog outdoors, since it can prevent him from finding the cool areas in your yard.

If you jog or power walk with your dog, do so in the early morning or evening, when the temperatures are lower. Paw pads burn easily, so check the asphalt with your palm before you set out.

Never leave your pet in a parked vehicle, even for a short time. Once the engine/AC is turned off, the car will heat up rapidly and expose your pet to the greatest risk of heat stroke.

Cracking windows open is woefully inadequate to keep the pet cool, plus exposes pet and car to theft. If you see a pet (or child) you suspect is in distress in a parked car, dial 911 for the police and, if you can, also call the local animal control agency.

Overweight pets, pets who have suffered heat stroke in the past, pets with respiratory or heart problems, very young and senior pets, and pets with short muzzles have a more increased risk of heat stroke.

However, all pets experience higher risk when they are dehydrated, overexerted or in poorly ventilated spaces. Excessive panting and rapid heart rates in cats or dogs are symptoms of heat stroke. They also may vomit or pass out.

Apply cool water (but not ice) to the pet’s body, put cool damp towels on the head, neck and chest, and offer cool water to drink.

Don’t force your pet to drink, and don’t let it drink an excessive amount of water at one time. You are trying to lower the body temperature gradually, not all at once. You can also have your pet lick ice cubes to cool off slowly.

Even if your pet responds well to home remedies after heat stroke, it’s a good idea to take it to the vet as soon as possible to make sure it’s OK.

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501c3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed them since Katrina. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org or leave a message at (504) 571-1900.