From: Claire Curtis
Date: 2001-08-07 10:37:00 UTC
Subject: Re: avoiding heat stroke
Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion and heat stroke) occurs when more heat is
produced than can be dissippated. (and dehydration is what is most deadly).
Mammals fight heat by:
- limiting activity (produces less heat)
- finding a cool spot (unfortunately, cages usually prevent this)
- using evaporative cooling - any moist surface works. Sweating is what
people use, but lungs are moist and panting will remove a lot of heat
too. One problem; the higher the humidity, the less well evaporative
cooling works. Also, if the moisture is coming from inside the body,
there is more of a possibility of dehydration. Luckily, external water
sources work well too.
- using direct-contact cooling (conduction). Get in contact with
something that absorbs heat. A tile floor is pretty good; and water is
one of the best heat absorbers (it doesn't have to be frozen).
- convective cooling -- air isn't good at absorbing heat, but as long as
it is cooler than body temperature, it will remove some heat. Of course
it works much better if evaporation is involved as well.
So for our ferrets?
First, I have a 12x12 tile that I put in the cage for them to lie on. If
I find them there instead of in their hammock, I know they're getting hot.
Have water available. Lots of it. Preferably in a bowl; my guys will
actually dunk their heads, or stand with front feet in it. This is not
good for keeping the water clean (have a water bottle there too), but it
keeps them cool.
If my guys are just lying there, I can tell how hot they are by wetting
my hands and getting their ears wet. This is "mom cleaning the ears" and
if they are not too hot they will squirm. If the squirming is
halfhearted, I'll wet their feet, and then their belly. If they just lay
there "oh that feels good", it's time for either an outright dousing or
an ice pack.
I have a couple of soft cloth athletic cooler wraps that I only use when
I am watching (I worry about them chewing them). The wraps are not very
cold (they are meant to go directly on skin), and I put one at the edge
of the hammock. Sometimes the guys ignore it or push it out of the
hammock; sometimes they move right on top of it.
If I'm going to be leaving the house, but I worry it will be getting hot
later, I leave them a big hard plastic cooler pack wrapped in an old
t-shirt. I put it in a corner of the cage. It lasts for hours. They guys
can ignore it if they wish, or sometimes I'll come home to find Sam
lying in the hammock with his head drooped down and lying on the
t-shirt. Frankie will burrow into the t-shirt and snuggle up right next
to the cube, but I think that's only at the end of the day when the cube
is no longer very cold.
Oh, one last thing -- if they're running around the house when it's hot,
they'll often end up in the bathtub. It's a generally cool environment.
If they're winding down, I'll move the laundry basket into the tub and
they will curl up there.