Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

Jun 17, 2015

Heat StrokeHeat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate owner intervention and medical treatment. It occurs when an animal’s body temperature rises outside of a safe range. Preventing heat stroke in pets is especially important in the upcoming summer months, when pets have not only warmer temperatures to contend with, but furry bodies that help to trap the heat.

Signs of Heat Stroke

• Anxiety
• Panting
• Dark red gums
• Dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
• Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
• Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
• Dizziness or disorientation
• Increased rectal temperature

Don’t determine your pet’s temperature or overall health by their nose. A cool, wet nose doesn’t always mean they’re healthy. If the inside of their ears or the skin on their belly is warm to the touch, you may want to check their temperature. The best way to take your pet’s rectal temperature is to use a pediatric thermometer dipped in a pet-safe lubricant. The normal temperature for a cat or dog is between 100 and 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit.


NEVER leave your pet alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether the windows are open. This is especially true when cats, or small dogs, are transported in carriers which restrict air flow. Even if the weather outside is not extremely hot, the inside of the car acts like an oven -- temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.

When Playing Outdoors:
• Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days
• When sitting outside, opt for shady areas
• Keep fresh, cool water available at all times
• Provide shade and cool water to dogs and cats living outdoors

Those at Risk

Certain medical conditions put dogs and cats at greater risk of heat stroke. Do not expose dogs and cats with the following conditions to prolonged heat:
• Airway disease
• Heart disease
• Impaired breathing
• Obesity
• Short-nosed cat breeds such as Persians and Himalayans
• Short-nosed dog breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs

If You Suspect Heat Stroke in Your Pet

• Remove your pet from the hot area
• Call your veterinarian immediately
• Lower your pet’s temperature by wetting him thoroughly with room temperature water, then increase air movement around him with a fan. When the rectal temperature drops to 103.5°F, stop all cooling efforts.

CAUTION: Using very cold water or cold water-soaked blankets can actually be counterproductive. Cooling too quickly and especially allowing your pet’s body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions.

Should your pet experience an emergency, contact your primary care veterinarian or one of Red Bank Veterinary Hospital’s emergency hospitals in Cherry Hill, Tinton Falls, Linwood or Hillsborough. All locations can be reached by calling (732) 747-3636.