pet heat stroke risks

Pet Heat Stroke: Signs, Treatment, & Prevention

Summer brings fun in the sun, but the excessive heat can also pose a host of threats to your pet, such as heat stroke. How do you and your pet enjoy the warm weather while staying safe? The best way to protect your pet is by going through a checklist of safety measures and looking for signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is what happens when your pet loses the ability to cool their body temperature appropriately, usually due to environmental factors, such as higher temperatures and humidity. The highest risk for heat stroke in pets occurs during the hottest days of the year. A good rule of thumb? If it’s too hot outside for you, it’s too hot outside for your pets.

the dangers of heat stroke in pets
Heat stroke is a huge danger to pets during the summer

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Heat stroke has some clear signs and symptoms pet owners should look out for. 

Heat Stroke in Dogs

If you and Fido are planning to spend time outside in the hot sun, watch for these signs of heatstroke in dogs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Skin that’s hot to the touch
  • Bright red gums that transition to white gums
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Imbalance
  • Hyperactivity
  • Pupil dilation
  • Muscle tremors

Heat stroke in Cats

Cats can be just as susceptible to heat exhaustion as dogs. Look for these warning signs of overheating in your cat:

  • Panting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dark red gums
  • Lethargy
  • Skin that’s hot to the touch
  • Abnormal vocalizing
  • Restless behavior

How can heat stroke in pets be treated?

Heat stroke can be treated in pets, but your pet has a better chance of full recovery and no lasting health issues if you intervene as soon as you suspect overheating.

  1. If you notice your pet exhibiting signs of heat stroke, the first step is to try to cool them down immediately. Remove them from the situation, if possible. If they’re outside, bring them inside where it’s cooler.
  2. Spritz them with cool water (don’t use ice cold water), point a fan towards them with gentle airflow. If you have a cooling mat, place them on top of it to help with getting rid of extra heat. It’s important to remember not to use extremely cold water or air, as this could make your pet’s situation worse.
  3. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. If you’ve just noticed signs of overheating, and it doesn’t seem like a severe case, you can have your pet examined by your local PetWellClinic veterinarian. If your pet is experiencing heat stroke, it is an emergency. It’s crucial that you seek emergency vet care immediately at your local animal hospital or pet emergency center.
  4. When you get to the vet, they’ll most likely take your pet’s rectal temperature and check their vital signs. Treatment decisions will be based on the condition your pet is in, but depending on the severity of your pet’s heat stroke, could include:
    1. Intravenous fluids
    2. Cooling treatments
    3. Medications
    4. Testing/monitoring organ function
    5. Ongoing treatment for an optimal recovery

Prevent Heat Stroke in Pets

The best way to protect your pet from heat stroke is following the right steps for prevention on hot days. You can easily prevent it from ever happening with the right knowledge.

brachycephalic breeds
Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke

Dog Breeds Susceptible to Heat Stroke

Brachycephalic breeds (which includes pugs, boston terriers, french bulldogs, english bulldogs, and more) are known for their short noses and flat faces. But these breeds are also known for a higher risk of certain health issues, including heat stroke.

It’s important that if you own one of these breeds, that you practice hyper vigilance in keeping them cool, especially during the summer months. Because they don’t have sweat glands like we do, dogs pant to try to cool themselves, but that just isn’t enough for these specific breeds. With an increased risk of heat stroke, it won’t take your pug or bulldog as long to develop it as other breeds.

Proper Hydration

When it’s hot outside, your pet should have access to water at all times. Check to make sure your pet is actually drinking water throughout the day, too. If you know you’re going to be out and about throughout the day, bring a portable dog bowl with you, and make sure you have access to water.

Keeping Cool

There are a number of ways to keep your pet cool. The best way is to limit the amount of time you spend in the heat all at once. Take breaks by finding an indoor spot for them to chill and cool off before going back out into the heat. Choose to go outside during a time when it’s cooler or there’s more shade, if that’s an option.

You can also invest in a cooling vest for your dog or cat that will help regulate their body temperature when you know you’ll be out on a hot day.

Don’t Leave Your Pet in a Hot Car

This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to never leave your dog or cat inside of a vehicle on a hot day. Leaving your pet in a hot car could lead directly to heat stroke, and some states even have laws that allow members of the public to break in car windows if they see a pet alone in a car that isn’t running.

The inside of your car can get to be 20 degrees hotter than the temperature outside, and that temperature will only climb the longer your pet is in the car. It’s never a safe bet to leave your pet alone in a car on a hot day. The risks far outweigh any convenience. If you know that you’re going somewhere, make sure your pet can accompany you, or leave them at home.

A Cool Pet is a Happy Pet

Going through the right steps to prevent heat stroke ensures your pet lives a long and happy life. Heat stroke is a real emergency for your pet’s health, and can easily happen with the right weather conditions.

Remember to monitor your pet if they’re out in the heat for signs of heat stroke, do everything in your power to prevent them from overheating if you know that you’ll be in hot conditions, and bring them to your veterinarian if they show any symptoms of heat stroke.

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian about your pet’s risk of heat stroke. Bring them by your local PetWellClinic for their next physical exam today!

PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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