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Heatstroke In Pets

Summer is here and with it brings longer days with warmer temperatures.

Heatstroke occurs when pets cannot keep their bodies temperature in a safe range. Dogs and cats do not have efficient cooling systems and unlike people they cannot sweat and get overheated easily. A pet with moderate heat stroke, a body temperature from 104◦ to 106◦ F (normal body temperature is 100◦ to 102.5◦ F), can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care. Severe heat stroke, body temperature over 106◦ F, can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.  

If you believe your pet is suffering from heat stroke first, remove them from the hot area. As you are taking him to the veterinarian, lower his body temperature by wetting him with lukewarm water (do not use cold water this can be counterproductive by constricting surface vessels and impede cooling). Cooling too quickly and allowing their body temperature to get too low can also cause life threating problems so, as you are cooling check your pets temperature every 5 minutes. Once the temperature is 103◦ F, the cooling measures should be stopped, the pet dried and covered so they don’t continue to loose heat. Even if your pet appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. He should be examined since he may be dehydrated or have other problems.

Allow free access to water or children’s rehydrating solution if the pet will drink on their own. Do not force- feed cold water, the pet may inhale it or choke.

When your pet arrives at your veterinarian they will continue to lower your pets body temperature to a safe range (if not already) and continue to monitor it. Your pet will be given fluids and possibly oxygen. They will be monitored for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart abnormalities, blood clotting problems and other complications and treated accordingly.

Pets with moderate heat stroke often recover without complicating health problems. Severe heat stroke can cause organ damage that may need ongoing care. Pets that suffer from heat stroke once increase their risk for getting it again.

Help prevent your pet from getting heatstroke by following these guidelines.

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car, even if you are in the shade or will only be gone a short time. The temperatures inside a car can quickly reach 140◦ degrees.
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On a hot or humid day, restrict exercise and don’t take your pet jogging or hiking with you.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concreate or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting your pet down with cool water or allowing them to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.


A pet suffering from heat stroke will display several signs:

If your pet is overweight talk to us. We can recommend an ideal weight range for your pet and help formulate a safe and effective weight loss plan.

Begin by evaluating your pet’s food: has it been formulated to AAFCO standards? How many calories does it contain in a serving? Try low calorie snacks like plain frozen green beans (thawed) or plain non-flavored popcorn.

Include exercise. Supply cats with climbing posts and dangly toys to encourage activity. Dogs benefit with walks a minimum of three times a week.

Nutritional counseling along with daily exercise can help your pet lose weight and live a long active life.