Heatstroke and Your Pet

Jul 20, 2013

It sure is hot today!
Credit OakleyOriginals

Even as hot as it is now in the summertime, your pet still wants to play!  Be careful, because your furry friend may become overheated - and that could lead to tragic consequences.


Summertime heat can pose a serious health risk for our pets. It’s usually a combination of the temperature and the humidity in the air that creates the danger, because of the way a pet’s body rids itself of excess heat.

As humans, when we get hot we sweat; the evaporation of the sweat helps to cool our bodies. Dogs and cats sweat only on the pads of their feet - hardly enough area to do the job. So they pant, moving the air in through their nasal passages then out through their mouths, taking with it the heat and cooling their bodies. The more moisture in the air, the less efficient this process is. Animals with very short nasal passages, such as a Pekinese dog or a Persian cat, may have more difficulty cooling down than animals with longer noses. Older animals, very young animals, animals who are overweight and those who are ill, may also be less efficient at cooling down in the humid summer heat. And when our pets become overheated, they may experience heat stroke.

Learning to recognize the signs of heat stroke could help you save your pet’s life. Symptoms of heat stroke include excessive panting, confusion, failure to respond to simple commands, vomiting, and physical collapse. Heat stroke is classified as a medical emergency; it can result in brain damage and can even be fatal. If you suspect your pet is experiencing heat stroke, get it out of the heat. You can use cool water or damp cloths to help lower its body temperature; do not use ice water which could do more harm than good. The best thing you can do for your best friend is to get it to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

As with so many other things, when it comes to heat stroke prevention is the best cure. If your pet is outdoors during the day, make sure it has a place to stay that is remains shaded and well-ventilated. Fresh water should be available at all times. And exercise should be kept to a minimum during the heat of the day.

Heat stroke has been called the number one killer of pets during the summertime. Your furry friend is depending on you to keep it cool and safe to enjoy all the other seasons, too, when you’re speaking of pets.