Heatstroke in Pets: Treatment & Prevention

The warmer months can put your pet at risk for heatstroke. Today our Riverbank vets talk about the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in pets and how you can help.

Heat Stroke in Pets

Heatstroke usually occurs in the summer months when it is hot and your pet's core body temperature rises above normal at a faster rate than their bodies can cool themselves down, which can result in organ failure and even be fatal.

Other factors that can cause heatstroke in cats and dogs include excessive exercise, not enough shade, dehydration, and a warm/ humid environment without enough circulation, such as being in an unventilated car or being left outside on a hot day.

The following factors could increase your pet's risk of heatstroke:

  • Obesity
  • Thick fur/ coat
  • Age ( young or old pets)
  • Dehydration
  • Flat-faced pets ( Himalayan cats, Persian cats, bulldogs, Scottish terriers, etc.)

If you believe your pet has heatstroke it is considered an emergency that requires immediate veterinary care.

Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs and Cats

There are several signs you should watch out for to determine if your cat or dog is suffering from heatstroke. The symptom of heatstroke are any of the following:

  • Panting
  • Diarrhea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • No or little urine
  • Delirium/ mental confusion
  • Drooling
  • Red or pale gums
  • Seizures/muscle tremors
  • Red tongue
  • Heart rate increase
  • Distressed/rapid breathing
  • Coma

If you notice any of these symptoms contact your vet right away as heatstroke is a very serious condition that requires urgent care.

First Aid Care for Pet Heatstroke

Before taking your pet to the vet or if you can't get there immediately there are several things you can do to bring down your cat or dog's body temperature at home.

  • First, remove them from the hot environment.
  • Place cool (not cold) water or damp cloths on their bodies to help cool them down. Don't use ice packs, ice cubes, or cold water, as it can send them into shock, which will make their condition worse.
  • Aim a fan at them to implement evaporative cooling.
  • Keep the air conditioner on the entire time you are in the car taking them to the vet.
  • Your pet has to be cooled down gradually, trying to cool your cat or dog too quickly will only make the situation worse, never use ice or ice-cold water.

Call your vet to inform them of your emergency and to let them know you are on your way, they may even provide you with further instructions on how to help your pet, before you get to the animal hospital.

Preventing Heatstroke

The best treatment for heatstroke is to prevent it from happening altogether, follow these steps to keep your beloved cat or dog safe from the heat.

  • Make sure your pet always has access to shade and fresh drinking water, especially when they are outside in the heat.
  • Keep your pet inside on hot days and only bring them outside for bathroom breaks.
  • Do not leave your pet in a car it can kill them, even on a mild day, the temperature in a vehicle can rise very rapidly. (Also concerned bystanders may smash open your windows to try and save your pet.)
  • Keep your pet off of hot surfaces with little or no shade such as asphalt, concrete, and stone.
  • Keep a water area in the shade such as a kiddie pool or sprinkler so your dog can cool themselves off and have fun while they are outside.
  • Always keep inside areas well ventilated with fans and/or air conditioning.
  • Do not take your pet outside for exercise during the heat of the day, wait for the evening when the air is cooler.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

    Is your pet showing signs of heatstroke? Contact our Riverbank vets for urgent veterinary care.