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HEATSTROKE

Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that must be treated immediately by a veterinarian. While enroute to medical care, your cat should be covered by cool wet towels. A cat suffering from heatstroke may be delirious, semi-conscious, panting and sometimes frantic. If your cat's body temperature rises above 107 degrees, proteins in her body will begin to change, and can quickly cause severe multiple organ failure, brain damage or death. This can happen in a matter of minutes.

Heatstroke is often seen in the summer months, when a cat is trapped in a small area with little ventilation. However, it can occur in any situation where the cat's body rapidly heats up, such as during a long seizure attack lasting 20 minutes or longer.

Symptoms
  • Temperature above 106 degrees
  • Possible seizures and convulsions
  • Depression/semi-consciousness
  • Coma
  • Brick red gums
  • Petechia (small red pin-point dots on skin and gums due to bleeding)
  • Coughing up blood
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody or tarry diarrhea
Diagnosis

Your veterinarian can make a tentative diagnosis if your cat's body temperature is greater than 106 degrees. The vet will also need to determine if the high body temperature is due to an external cause, such as your cat being in a hot car, or an internal cause, such as seizures.

Therapy

Your vet's first objective is to cool your cat's body quickly without allowing the temperature to go below normal. Your cat may be placed on supplemental oxygen, and started on IV fluids to restore blood pressure and tissue perfusion (especially to the brain, heart and kidneys). If the kidneys are not producing urine or if fluid has built up in the lung (pulmonary edema), your vet may also treat with diuretics, steroids or antibiotics.

Prevention

Many cases of heat stroke can be avoided by simply not leaving your cat unattended in a car or cat carrier (even during cool weather). If your cat has a seizure, immediately take her to an emergency veterinary hospital for treatment.