A dog pants on a bench

The heat is on here in Austin, and with it comes a concern for our animal friends. When it’s hot enough to fry the proverbial egg on the sidewalk, you have to wonder how the heat affects them. In fact, pets are susceptible to a progression of heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. 

This serious and potentially fatal condition is something we should all be aware of. Protecting your pet from extreme heat is a must. Come along with Brodie Animal Hospital as we navigate avoiding heatstroke in pets. 

Signs of Heatstroke In Pets

Heatstroke in pets occurs when a dog’s or cat’s body temperature rises above 103 degrees, and their normal cooling mechanisms become overwhelmed and stop working properly. Organ failure can occur if heatstroke is not treated, at which point death is imminent. 

The most common cause of heatstroke and heat-related death is leaving a dog alone in a car. The dog’s body temperature in such a situation can elevate quickly, often within minutes. 

It’s important for pet owners to recognize the early warning signs of heatstroke and to know what to do if your pet shows these signs. 

  • Moving more slowly than normal
  • Seeking shade or trying to lie down
  • Panting excessively
  • Seeking out water sources or puddles to drink from
  • Rapid pulse
  • Wide, stressed eyes
  • Dark red gums and tongue
  • Increased anxiety

As heatstroke progresses, you may notice the following signs as well as the above:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast, irregular pulse
  • Drooling
  • Staggering, weakness, collapse
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Seizures

Helping Your Pet

While some mild cases of heat stress can be staved off with basic first aid, all cases of heat stroke require emergency veterinary care and treatment in order to ensure they don’t progress. When in doubt, bring your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital for evaluation. This is one instance where it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Basic first aid for mild heat stress can include:

  • Stop activity and move your pet to a safe, shady (air-conditioned) spot
  • Offer (don’t force) drinking water frequently, in small amounts
  • Wrap cool (never icy) water-soaked towels around your pet’s groin, paws, and neck
  • Transport your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital for evaluation

Avoiding Heatstroke in Pets

When temperatures and humidity rise, avoiding heatstroke in pets becomes a top priority. Older pets, puppies and kittens, sick pets, and brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs) may all feel the effects of heat exhaustion sooner than other dogs. But, all dogs and cats are susceptible to heatstroke.

The Importance of Hydration

Since dehydration and heat stroke often go hand in hand, keeping them hydrated all year round (and especially in the hot summer months) can go a long way to avoiding heatstroke in pets. 

You may think that dehydration in pets can’t happen easily, but the opposite is true. In fact, studies show that many cats live in a state of constant dehydration. 

To keep pets hydrated, you can:

  • Provide clean, fresh water in several different locations throughout your home
  • Invest in a drinking fountain for pets; cats especially like running water
  • If your cat likes drinking from the faucet, let her (see above)
  • Teach your dog to drink from a water bottle, and take your own bowls on adventures
  • Add canned food to your pet’s diet, which contains more water than kibble
  • Location matters! Sensitive cats and dogs need water bowls in multiple quiet locations
  • Test different water bowl shapes, sizes, and materials to find one your pet likes to drink from

Providing enough water for your pets is a matter of simple habits. Each time you reach for your own water bottle, think about their water intake as well. Similarly, if it’s too hot for you outside, it’s too hot for your pets. During high heat and humidity, the safest place for your pets is inside  – preferably in the air conditioning. 

If you have any questions or concerns about heatstroke in pets, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help!