Take These Steps to Prevent Heatstroke in Pets

heatstroke pets

It is important to take these steps to prevent heatstroke in pets.  Heatstroke (Hyperthermia) occurs when the body’s mechanisms cannot keep the body temperature in a safe range.   In general, hot conditions that cause a body temperature above 103 F is dangerous, and a body temperature above 106 can cause multiple organ failure and death.  Dogs and cats do not sweat like people do so they cannot cool themselves as efficiently.  It is important to take steps to prevent heatstroke in pets and to be able to recognize the signs of heatstroke so it can be treated promptly. 


Symptoms of Heatstroke:

-Rapid panting or drooling

-Bright red tongue

-Pale gums

-Weakness, depression, dizziness

-Vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes blood in the vomit or stool


-Shock, coma


Treatment of Heatstroke

Heatstroke can cause serious complications and death.  Possible complications include shock, dehydration, heart arrhythmias, brain damage, liver and kidney damage or failure, bleeding or clotting abnormalities, and death.  If you think that your pet is experiencing heatstroke you should remove your pet from the hot conditions immediately.  Cool (not cold) water can be used in a bathtub or garden hose to decrease the body temperature.  An ice pack covered in a dry towel can be used for a few minutes on pet’s paws, head, and between their hind legs to accelerate the cooling.  Veterinary treatment is needed ASAP to assess the severity of the heatstroke and to provide emergency treatment.  Veterinary treatment for heatstroke includes intravenous fluids to decrease the body temperature and support hydration.  Sometime oxygen therapy and other emergency treatments are needed.  Bloodwork will help determine if there are signs of organ damage or clotting problems.  Hospitalization and supportive care is often needed until the risk of organ damage is minimal.  If the body temperature remains over 106 F for too long sometimes even with intensive care the prognosis can be poor for survival.

Dog in Hot Car

Prevention is Key!

Take these important steps to ensure your pet does not experience heatstroke:

NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN A PARKED CAR!  If a car is off, even if the windows are down and it is parked in the shade, the temperature can reach a deadly degree in a very short time.  On a 78 F day the temperature in a parked can can reach over 120 F in 10 minutes, and on a 90 F day the temperature can reach over 160 in 10 minutes!  Even 10 minutes in a hot car can be deadly!  If you see a pet in a hot car you should call animal control or the police.

-Make sure pets outside always have access to shade in a well ventilated area and access to fresh water at all times.

-Do not exercise your pet on a hot day.  In hot weather early mornings are the best time for walking or jogging dogs.

-Some pets are more predisposed to heatstroke: breeds with shortened snouts (Brachycephalic breeds), like bulldogs, pugs, and persian cats, are much more susceptible to heatstroke.  Young puppies and kittens, and older pets are more susceptible as well.  Pets who are sick or have an illness are also more sensitive to the heat.

-Avoid surfaces like pavement and sand that reflect heat in the hot part of the day.  One a side note, hot pavement can cause severe and painful burns to paws!  Never walk your dog on pavement if it is hot out.  On an 86 F day the pavement temperature in the sun can reach 135 F!  Take the 5 second test: place the back of your hand and hold it on the pavement for 5 seconds- if it is uncomfortable on your hand then it is too hot for your dog’s paws.  Walk your dog in the early morning when the pavement is cool or stay on the grass.


The take home message is that you should take every step necessary to prevent over heating in pets.  If you think your pet may have heatstroke, a veterinary exam is needed immediately!


If you would like to talk to us more about preventing heatstroke in your furry family member give us a call 830-438-7800