This is Part Two of our post from last Thursday. In Can Somebody Please Turn Off the Heat, we listed the symptoms of heatstroke (hyperthermia) and provided information on how to prevent it. At that time, we promised to give you instructions today on treating this condition.
As a recap, normal body temperature for a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 º F (38.2 to 39.2 º C).
Mild heatstroke can occur when a cat’s body temperature reaches 104° F or 40° C. With mild hyperthermia, it may be possible for you to lower your cat’s temperature at home. If you want to attempt this yourself, the following steps should be taken:
- Immediately take your cat to a cool place.
- Wrap your cat in cool, wet towels or immerse him in cool (not cold) water. Be careful to keep the water away from his mouth and nose.
- Apply ice packs or frozen vegetables to the cat’s head and between legs.
- Put rubbing alcohol on the cat’s paws and legs to assist in bringing the temperature down.
- Turn on a fan or air conditioning. Evaporation helps cool your cat.
- Offer plenty of cool, fresh water.
Do not continue the cooling procedures once your cat’s temperature has returned to normal. Continuing the cooling treatments could result in hypothermia (a dangerously low body temperature).
If you attempt these procedures at home, take your cat’s rectal temperature every five to ten minutes. Once your cat’s temperature returns to normal, take her to the vet. Though your cat may appear to have recovered, it is possible that she has suffered organ damage. Only your veterinarian can make this determination.
Moderate to severe hyperthermia occurs when your cat’s body temperature reaches 105º F or 40.5º C. If this happens, you need to take your cat to the vet immediately. Someone should drive and another person should work to lower the cat’s temperature (using the above methods) while in route.
To return your cat’s temperature to normal your veterinarian will treat her as follows:
- Cool fluids will be introduced to the body intravenously or by giving your cat a cool water enema.
- Oxygen will be given if he is having difficulty breathing.
- Additional fluids will be given to treat dehydration.
- Your cat will be monitored for signs of organ damage or failure (especially to the brain) which can be caused by a prolonged high body temperature.
Hyperthermia can cause swelling in the throat. If this has occurred, the vet may give your cat a cortisone injection to treat this.
Once the temperature is stabilized, usually no further treatment is needed. However, it may take several days for evidence of organ damage to develop. If your cat does not seem completely back to normal within two to three days, speak to your veterinarian.
Carefully monitor your cat’s health for any signs of long-term damage caused by the heatstroke, including watching for blood in the urine which may signal kidney damage. Should kidney damage be diagnosed, a special diet to put less strain on your cat’s damaged kidneys may be prescribed.
Summer is only about half over and some of the hottest temperatures are still in front of us. Please keep your furry friends safe and cool to avoid the possibility of hyperthermia. Cats who have suffered hyperthermia are at greater risk of getting it again.