Preventing Heat Stroke in Your Pets
While we all welcome summer warmth, one of the biggest risks your pet will face during the summer is the heat. Pets release heat through the pads of their feet and by panting, not sweating. This means animals are much less efficient at regulating heat and body temperature than humans.
Who is at risk?
The heat affects animals in different ways. Some examples of pets that are at risk:
- Elderly, very young or sick animals have a harder time regulating their body temperatures, and they have difficulty staying cool.
- Brachycelphalic pets ("pushed-in" nose) and heavy faced dogs can't pant effectively in the heat.
- Double coated and heavy skinned dogs (Shar-Pei).
- Overweight dogs have extra layers of insulation that trap heat and restrict their panting.
Heat stroke happens when the animal’s internal cooling system can no longer compensate for environmental temperature. A pet’s normal temperature is 100.5-102.5º F and heat stroke can cause temperatures to rise rapidly up to 104-110º F in as little as 15 minutes causing brain damage or death.
Watch your pet for excessive panting and salivation, anxiety, disorientation, weakness, fever, and rapid heartbeat which are all signs of heat stroke. This can be fatal if it's left untreated, so move them to an air-conditioned or shaded area. Then apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest. Immersion in a cool (NOT cold) bath can also help lower their body temperature. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to administer IV fluids to counteract shock and fluid loss or medications to prevent brain damage.
Outside exercise and playtime are important parts of keeping your pets healthy but use caution with summer heat.
- Keep walks to a gentle pace.
- Take advantage of cooler hours during the early morning and late evening.
- Since pets release heat through their feet, let them walk on the grass and avoid hot sidewalks or pavement.
- Most importantly, make sure they have access to plenty of water as you walk.
- If your dog lives outside, make sure they have adequate shade from the sun and heat, as well as plenty of clean, cool fresh water. Water misters can be helpful.
- Never leave your dog inside a vehicle, even if it's "just for a minute."
- On a mild 90º F day, vehicle temperatures can reach 120º F in 10 minutes.
Summer is a time for outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. With the right precautions, your pets will enjoy the weather as much as you do.
- Dr. B
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.
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