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Can Cats Get Heat Stroke?

Posted June 22, 2015 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Cat panting

As it gets warmer, don’t forget that cats can suffer just like dogs from too much heat. We are now entering the summer season and with it will come the hottest days of the year. Each summer, many pets are exposed to extreme heat conditions and a tragic number of them die a frightful death as they become overheated.  

Cats and cars
For dogs, the greatest heat threat is usually being locked in a hot car. Cats may not take as many road trips, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take any. It is not uncommon for cats to accompany people in the car, particularly when taking a trip to see the veterinarian.

As with dogs, even short periods of being left in the car can result in extreme heat and heat stroke. It’s a life threatening medical condition in which the body's internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, heart and brain) begin to shut down as a result of elevated body temperature caused by high, external temperatures and humidity1.

How will I know if my cats are hot or comfortable?
As a rule, if people are comfortable with the temperature in the environment, dogs and cats are as well. However, it's always a good idea to watch for signs of heat stroke. our cats have no real effective means of regulating body temperature. Cats cool their body much like dogs do, through minor perspiration on the foot pads and by panting, which allows them to dissipate heat by evaporation. Neither is a very effective cooling system for extreme heat situations. Remember that even at a reasonable starting temperature, the temperature in a small space can soar without ventilation.

The heating that can occur in a closed car, for example, can be shocking. Noheatstroke.org reports that On an 80 degree day, when a car is parked in the sun, temperatures can reach 123 degrees in 60 minutes. The website also published data on just how fast the heat was rising inside of a parked car:

  • 10 minutes resulted in an increased interior temperature of ~ 19 degrees F.
  • 20 minutes ~ 29 degrees
  • 30 minutes ~ 34 degrees
  • 60 minutes ~ 43 degrees
  • 1 to 2 hours ~ 45-50 degrees

Signs of heat stroke in cats
Signs of heat stroke in cats are very similar to those seen in dogs, and include1:

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.