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Unlike people, your cat is unable to sweat to cool down when they get too warm. This can lead to an increased risk of overheating. Our Halifax emergency veterinarians share offer some information on cats and heatstroke, including the symptoms and when to seek veterinary care.

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What is heatstroke in cats?

Your cat's normal body temperature sits between 37.5°C and 39.2°C. Heatstroke occurs when their temperature rises above 40°C. Once it reaches this point, they are no longer able to cool themselves using their body's natural abilities.

Can cats get heatstroke?

Yes, several different scenarios can lead to heatstroke in cats. Some examples of this are when cats are left in hot cars or if they have no access to water bowls.

As we mentioned above, temperatures above 40°C can be considered heatstroke. When this occurs, your cat will experience widespread inflammation throughout their body. This inflammation will cause a series of reactions in the body, resulting in the breakdown of proteins and enzymes. If heatstroke is left untreated, it can lead to organ failure, which can be fatal for your cat.

When is your cat at risk of heatstroke?

Certain situations and criteria can increase your cat's risk of developing heatstroke, including:

  • Flat-faced cat breeds (like Persians)
  • Cats with existing medical conditions
  • Very young cats or those that are old
  • Long or thick-coated cats
  • Cats who are trapped (inside cars, clothes dryers, etc.)
  • Excessive exercise
  • While travelling (from changes in climate to being enclosed during travel)

Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke in Cats

Here are some of the common heatstroke symptoms in cats to watch for:

  • Rectal temperature greater than 40°C
  • Disorientation
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Pinpoint spots on the skin, eyes, gums, ears and belly
  • Laboured breathing, panting or wheezing
  • Collapse (inability to walk or stand up)
  • Seizures

How to Treat Heatstroke in Cats

If your cat has mild signs of heatstroke with minimal panting but is awake and responsive, you may want to do the following while preparing to visit the veterinary hospital:

  • Move your cat to a cool, shady area and call your primary care veterinarian or our emergency veterinary hospital
  • Minimize handling (excessive handling can increase your cat's core body temperature)
  • Place a cool towel under them and take their temperature every minute
  • Encourage them to take a few sips of cool water (don't overdo it or force them)
  • Cool your cat until they reach 39.5°C (record the time they reach this temperature)
  • Pre-cool down your car and carefully load your cat up to bring them to the animal hospital

While a light mist may be well received by some cats, don't place them in cold water or use ice to cool them down. Doing so may induce shock.

When is heatstroke a medical emergency?

While any overheating cat should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, some situations are more time-sensitive than others. It is considered a veterinary emergency if your cat is non-responsive, reacting violently or experiencing vomiting or diarrhea.

If this occurs, you can place them in a travel carrier with a chilled, wet towel, pre-cool your car as much as possible and bring them to our emergency vets at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital immediately. Severe heatstroke can be fatal for cats when left untreated.

Preventing Heatstroke in Cats

Knowing how to keep your cat cool is important, especially as the hot weather coming up. To prevent your feline friend from getting heat stroke, you should always provide your cat with a cool, shady spot to relax in on hot days, ensure that there is plenty of accessible fresh water for them to drink, and never leave them in a hot room or car unattended.

Note: The veterinary 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 dangerous condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our emergency veterinarians have experience caring for cats experiencing critical emergencies. We serve clients from Halifax, Clayton Park, Dartmouth and beyond. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Heatstroke in Cats

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