Keep your pet safe in the South Texas heat

by Robert B. Duncan, DVM
Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital


Why are pets more at risk of heat stroke than people?

Dogs and cats do not perspire the way people do.   They primarily cool through panting to release heat.  They also have a minimal amount of perspiration through their foot pads.  These methods of cooling are much less efficient than the human ability to perspire.

Special Note: Be extra careful with brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Pekingese as these dogs are even less efficient in cooling their bodies through the panting process.

How do I protect my pet from the heat?

Make sure pets have adequate shade.  Doghouses are generally not good sources of shade as they can trap heat.  Always provide plenty of fresh, cool water.  Limit exercise to the mornings or evenings when temperatures are cooler.  A plastic children’s swimming pool is often helpful in letting dogs cool themselves.

What are symptoms of heat exhaustion?

Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include the following:

  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red tongue and gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Unsteadiness on feet


What do I do if my pet is showing symptoms of overheating?

Heat Stroke is a life-threatening emergency.  If you think your pet may be having heat-related symptoms, an exam by a veterinarian should be done as soon as possible.  Please call us to let us know you are on the way so we can be prepared.  If you are able to take a rectal temperature, know that a normal pet temperature is usually between 100F and 102.5F (a temperature slightly higher than 102.5F can also be normal for pets which have been outdoors).  If the pet’s temperature is well above normal and the suspicion of heat exhaustion is high, rubbing alcohol may be applied to the foot pads while en route to receive medical treatment.  This will help expedite the cooling process.