During the hot summer months, it is especially important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and cats. Heatstroke can commonly occur when they are over-exposed to sunlight and heat, and become unable to regulate their natural body temperature.
Dogs and cats regulate their body temperature through respiration (panting) and don’t sweat like humans do. Therefore, when they cannot release heat quickly enough, heatstroke can quickly occur. Heatstroke can be a very serious situation, so it’s important to know the symptoms and solutions for how to deal with this condition.
Who is at risk?
Any dog or cat can be susceptible to heatstroke if they are exposed to extreme sunlight, heat, or confined in a hot area for an extended period of time. We advise that owners with pet doors pay careful attention to their canine and feline companions wandering outside during the summer months. Dogs with dog doors have more freedom outdoors, and may be at risk for heatstroke. Be sure to lock your pet door if you do not want your dog or cat going outside during certain hours when it is really hot! Be careful not to leave your dog unattended during hot summer months, and always have a cool area for your pup to take breaks during outside adventures.
If a dog is suffering from heatstroke, you may observe one or more of the following symptoms: hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry and pale gums, rapid pulse, increased salivation, difficulty breathing, inability to focus or confused appearance, and even vomiting or seizures.
What To Do If Your Dog Experiences Heatstroke:
- Quick Response. The best thing you can do in the case of heatstroke is to respond quickly. Constantly observe your dog in hotter environments for prevention purposes.
- Relocate. Quickly relocate your dog to the shade, or a cooler environment.
- Cool Water. Apply cool (not cold!!) water to touch points on your dog’s body. Focus on areas such as your dog’s stomach, inner thighs, and footpads. Don’t submerge your dog in water, or apply freezing cold water. Submerging your dog in water can cause shock, resulting in cardiac arrest or bloating from rapid cooling. Freezing cold water constricts blood vessels, and is counterproductive to the cooling process.
- Movement. Keep both your dog moving, as well as airflow. Keeping your dog moving helps to circulate blood. It is also important to keep your dog exposed to air, so that proper evaporation can take place. Wetting your dog with cool water and then placing him in a kennel or covering him with a towel will prevent evaporation, hindering their ability to return to normal body temperature regulation.
- Hydration. Provide your dog small amounts of water. You don’t want your dog to drink too rapidly, but small amounts of cool water will be beneficial for hydration. Don’t give your dog other types of drinks such as human performance beverages.
- Call the Vet. Call your vet as soon as possible. It is important to relocate your dog quickly to cool ground, but it is also necessary to follow the advice of a professional based on your individual situation. Each dog will respond differently to various degrees of heatstroke, so be in contact with your vet immediately.
Pet Doors Note on Cats: Those with outdoor cats or cats who frequently travel between cat doors, beware of heatstroke in your feline friends as well. Depending on your weather, allowing your cats outside access may be a great idea to cool off, or it may expose them to more extreme heat than your house. Setting up an outdoor “catio” for your cat is a safe way to allow them some fresh air, and it keeps them close so you can monitor their health. If your cat is showing signs of heatstroke, move your cat to a cool area, and wet with cool water. Provide cool drinking water, and call your vet immediately if you suspect your cat is experiencing heatstroke.