At Smith Animal Hospital our Houston County vets see fewer cases of heatstroke in cats than in dogs, however, it does happen. Our vets share some of the symptoms of heatstroke in cats, and what you should do if you think your cat is suffering from heatstroke.
What is Heatstroke
Just like humans and dogs, cats can be impacted by high temperatures. Also known as hyperthermia, heatstroke is a condition that can occur when the body temperature has become dangerously high. A cat's normal body temperature range is typically between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 102.5 may be cause for some concern.
If your cat's internal temperature becomes too high for the body to cool itself, heatstroke will soon develop if the cat is not placed in a cooler area. Heatstroke can begin when a cat's internal body temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This can lead to severe damage to the cat's organs and cells in the body that can quickly turn fatal.
Why Cats Get Heatstroke
Heatstroke in cats and dogs is typically caused by exposure to excessive ambient heat. Some of the most common causes of heatstroke in cats include:
- Extremely hot outdoor temperature
- Lack of access to shade
- Trapped in hot unventilated space (such as a car)
- Lack of access to water
Signs of Heatstroke in Cats
Heatstroke symptoms in cats can include one or more of the following symptoms:
- Excessive Panting
- Restless Behavior
- Sweaty Feet
- Loss of Balance
- Excessive Grooming
- Uncoordinated Movement
- Muscle Tremors
How to Treat Heatstroke in Cats
Heatstroke is a serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! If your cat is displaying signs of heatstroke, contact your vet straight away, or go to the nearest emergency animal hospital.
If your cat is conscious and you suspect that it may be suffering from heatstroke, move your cat into a cool room and wet your cat's fur with cool - NOT COLD - water, then place ice packs gently on your cat's feet.
While transporting your cat to the vet keep the vehicle's air conditioning on full or open windows to allow airflow to help cool your cat down.
How Your Vet Will Treat Your Cat's Heatstroke
Your vet will work to reduce your cat's body temperature back down to normal. This may be done using cool water and/or ice packs.
Your vet may also administer intravenous fluids to help to lower your cat’s temperature, counteract the effects of shock and minimize the risk of organ damage. In some cases, oxygen therapy may also be required.
The team at your vet's office will monitor your cat's body temperature every few minutes until your pet's body temperature is back within normal parameters. If caught early and treated immediately cats can recover quickly from heatstroke.
That said, heatstroke poses a very serious health risk to cats and dogs. Your vet will examine your cat for signs of organ damage and other serious complications before allowing your pet to return home. In some cases, evidence of organ damage does not become apparent for several days, be sure to carefully monitor your cat for signs of illness if they have recently recovered from heatstroke.
Preventing Heatstroke in Cats
To prevent your cat from getting heatstroke, always provide your cat with access to a cool, shady space to relax in on hot days, make sure that your feline friend has access to plenty of fresh clean water to drink, and never leave your pet trapped in a vehicle or hot room.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.