Learning About Vet Care For Pets And Farm Animals

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Weather-Related Health Risks For Pets

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Extreme weather conditions can take their toll on pets as well as their owners. However, many pet owners are unaware that their pets can suffer some of the same health issues as their children when exposed to severe heat or cold,

This can result in severe injury or death for the pets if they are not given emergency veterinary care as soon as symptoms develop. 

Heat-Related Health Issues For Pets

While some pet owners would never consider leaving their child in a vehicle for an extended period, pets are sometimes left in a vehicle with the windows slightly lowered. This leaves a pet vulnerable to heatstroke, which is a condition under which the body can no longer regulate its internal temperature, and major organs begin to shut down, resulting in severe organ damage or death if not treated immediately after symptoms appear.

Symptoms of heatstroke in pets

  • Skin feels hot when touched 
  • Profuse drooling or salivation
  • Pet may appear disoriented or excessively tired

What you should do if you suspect your pet has developed heatstroke

  • Cool your pet with cold water.
  • Have pet examined by emergency vet. Organ shutdown may still be in progress even if symptoms abate.

Surprisingly, many cases of heatstroke from pets or children left unattended in vehicles happens when temperatures are rather moderate outside the vehicle. The temperature inside a vehicle on a warm sunny day can rise to dangerous levels in minutes.

Cold related health issues for pets

Although some pets can adapt to moderately cold temperatures, if it's too cold outside for a pet owner, it's also too cold for their pet. This is especially true if a pet is exposed to rain, snow, or wind, which make the pet more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. Possible health concerns include:


Hypothermia involves the body temperature dropping to a point that the body can no longer produce enough heat to compensate for exposure to cold weather conditions. As in heatstroke, major organs begin to shut down as the body loses its ability to regulate itself. With hypothermia, the pet's body attempts to save organ function by directing blood flow to the organs at the expense of the rest of the body.

Symptoms of hypothermia

  • Intense shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Slower heart rate and respiration

As hypothermia progresses, shivering ceases, eyes may become fixed and dilated, coma and death will occur if body temperature is not increased.


Pet must be taken to a warm room, with warmed blankets applied. If hypothermia is severe, pet should be taken to an emergency vet, where additional warming may include enemas, ventilation with warmed air, and intravenous administration of warmed sucrose.

Even though a pet with severe hypothermia may appear dead, with little or no detectable pulse or respiration, it must still be taken to an animal hospital to allow resuscitation efforts to be attempted. Only when a pet with severe hypothermia is warmed to a survivable internal temperature can death be determined with certainty.

While traveling to an emergency vet for treatment, the pet may benefit from mouth to mouth resuscitation. Warm air blown into the mouth will go directly to the lungs and heart and warm any blood that may be flowing to the brain.


This occurs when blood vessels beneath the skin becomes frozen and unable to produce blood flow to the affected area. As a result, the frozen area begins to die. The extent of damage will depend on the length of time before it is treated.


Frostbite will appear as pale or grayish skin that is hard to the touch. It is most likely to occur in extremities such as ears, toes, and tails, where blood vessels are closest to the surface of the skin.


The affected area must be warmed as soon as possible, with warm water, heating pads, blow dryers, or other warming sources. Don't use hot temperatures to attempt to warm the area too quickly, because burns may result. Do not rub the affected area in an attempt to boost circulation.

Severe frostbite can result in dead areas that must be removed by a veterinarian by surgery or amputation. If the affected area turns black after an episode of frostbite, you must take your pet to an emergency vet as soon as possible. Infection can result if the dead area is not removed.

Treat your pet as you would treat your child when allowing them to be exposed to extreme temperatures.

For emergency veterinary care, contact a facility such as Animal House Veterinary Hospital.