When it’s Really Hot

Heat Stroke is a life-threatening medical condition. The pet’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point where brain damage or damage to other internal organs may occur. Pets’ normal temperatures range from 101.5° to 102° F; an animal with heat stroke can have temperatures from 104° to 110° F.

Heat stroke affects animals in different ways. Elderly, very young or ill animals have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. Snub nose dogs can not pant effectively and therefore have a hard time staying cool. Overweight dogs are more prone to overheating because of the extra layers of fat that act to insulate and trap the heat. Overweight dogs may also have breathing difficulties; the fat restricts them from panting.

No animal should be left outside unsupervised on long, hot days, even if there is shade available. Limiting the time outside during the hottest hours of the day is an important step in the prevention of heat stroke. Pets can become ill very quickly if they overheat. As an added safety measure, a bandana can be soaked in cool water and then place in the refrigerator before putting it around a dog’s neck. Cooling beds and fans are also helpful.

It is dangerous to leave a pet in a car even if it is “just for a minute.” On mild days in the spring and fall, temperatures in cars can reach 120° F or higher; imagine how hot it can be when the outside temperature is 100° F. On those hot days, it is best to keep you pet at home where it is nice, cool and safe.

Outside exercise and play time are important parts of keeping pets healthy. Remember you can change clothes to cooler items, but your pet is still wearing a “fur coat” and releases most of its body heat only through the pads of its feet and by panting. Dogs do not have the ability to sweat so it is more difficult for them to cool down. It is advisable during the hot months to keep walks to a gentle pace, taking advantage of the early morning and late evening cooler hours. If you must walk when it is hot outside, remember that you have shoes on to protect your feet from the heat of the street or sidewalk. Keep your pet on the grass to ensure its feet do not get burned. Give your pet plenty of water during walks. Without water from you, your dog may drink from puddles in the road – puddles that could contain antifreeze, which can be deadly to pets.

Dogs that live outside should have adequate shelter to protect them from the sun and heat. Outside kennels need to be well ventilated and situated in shaded areas. Make sure outside dogs have plenty of clean, cool fresh water. 

If you notice things like excessive panting and profuse salivation, disorientation, staring or an anxious expression, weakness, rapid heartbeat, excessive thirst, fever, dizziness, vomiting, deep red or purple tongue, and possibly unconsciousness, these are clinical signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal if left untreated. At the first sign of trouble, call your veterinarian. Move you pet into a shaded or air conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck and chest to gradually lower your pet’s temperature. Immersion in a cool (NOT COLD) water bath may help, too.

When transporting your pet to the veterinarian’s office, allow small amounts of cool water or let your pet lick an ice cube. Brain and organ damage can occur with in just 15 minutes. Under your veterinarian’s care, treatments for heat stroke may vary but will include further cooling techniques such as administering IV fluids to counteract shock and medications to prevent brain damage.  

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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