Ask Seth: What do I do if my cat gets heat exhaustion?
We have been in the middle of a heat wave (heat index over 102 degrees) for the past 7 days and I do not have air-conditioning. I am concerned for my cats because they have been panting a lot during the day. I think cats can get heat stroke, and need to know what to do if that were to happen.
Cats can only sweat through their foot pads, so pant to reduce their body temperature. If they could not reduce their body temperature, it would result in heat exhaustion and then heat stroke. If the temperature is not brought down quickly, serious organ damage or death can occur. Watch the behavior of the cats for signs of restlessness trying to find a cooler place, non-stop panting, sweaty feet and excessive drooling or grooming, which could be the first signs of heat exhaustion. As their body temperature rises, it will progress to rapid pulse and breathing, redness, vomiting, lethargy and a stumbling/staggering gait. If the cat’s body temperature is not immediately reduced, the animal will collapse, they may begin to experience seizures and can even slip into coma. You can take your cat's temperature with a rectal thermometer.
The normal temperature for a feline is 100-102.5 degrees. If the cat begins to show signs of exhaustion, move the animal to a cooler place and make sure it has plenty of water. If the cat is conscious, but showing signs of heat exhaustion, take him to a cooler area and soak him with COOL (not cold) water. Offer fresh, cool water and take him to the veterinarian immediately.
If you find your cat unconscious, soak it with cool water, but do not put water on the face and nose. Place a cold pack (frozen vegetables) between the legs and rush the cat to the closest veterinarian. The sooner a veterinarian can evaluate your cat’s condition and reduce the body temperature, the better the prognosis will be.