heat stroke in pets

What is Heat Stroke in Pets and How to Avoid It


Recent Blog:

Facebook Posts

As summer swelters on, heat stroke in pets is a risk you’re going to want to look out for. Heat stroke isn’t just your pet getting too hot, if it isn’t noticed in time it can be fatal.

So what is heat stroke? How do you identify the symptoms? And how do you treat it?

First: What is heat stroke in pets?

When a warm blooded animal’s temperature climbs over 39°C it becomes dangerous for them.

This may be normal when your dog or cat is sick or has an infection. But, anytime a cat or dog’s body temperature climbs over 40°C without being sick, it’s usually related to excessive heat. This is called heat exhaustion and if left untreated will become heat stroke.

Heat stroke can happen if your pet’s been left outside with no access to shade or in a hot, unventilated room. But the most common cause is if they’ve been left in a hot car.

heat stroke in pets

Symptoms of heat stroke

Knowing what the signs are will help you identify heat stroke and help your furbaby before it becomes fatal. 

These symptoms are:

  • Excessive panting – this is how pets cool down their body temperature 
  • Dark red gums
  • Lethargy – might also seemingly be unresponsive to you
  • Walking drunk – walking with a loss of balance
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Diarrhoea

If you notice any of these you need to react quickly. If you’re able to lower your pet’s body temperature in time they’ll be able to recover without further treatment. 

How to treat heat stroke in pets

Firstly, the most critical part of treating heat stroke is to cool your dog or cat down as quickly as possible. 

Treatment for heat exhaustion (38.5 – 40°C)

1: Immediately move them to a cool spot, preferably an air-conditioned room. 

2: Offer small amounts of cool or room temperature water every few minutes. Don’t force them to drink.

3: Take your pet’s temperature. The most accurate way is a rectal thermometer and even a human one will suffice. You want to do this every minute, keeping track if their temperature is coming down or not. 

4: If their temperature doesn’t come down after 5 minutes, you need to seek veterinary care. Even if the temp is falling, you’ll want to alert your vet to the issue.

If your pet’s temperature goes over 40°C, see heat stroke treatment below…

Treatment for heat stroke (40°C and over)

1: (If you haven’t already) immediately move them to a cool spot, preferably an air-conditioned room. 

2: Make a note of the time you started treatment and cooling measures – this will be important information for your veterinarian.

3: Place a wet towel or blanket underneath your pet to help with cooling. 

4: If they’re conscious you can try to offer small amounts of room temperature or cool water every few minutes. 

  • Don’t try to force a pet that isn’t awake and alert to drink water because it could choke them.
  • Don’t place ice packs directly on or under them because this may lower body temperature too quickly, which is dangerous. 

5: Take your pet’s temperature. If they’re still over 40°C, use a hose or wet towel to cool them, focusing on their paws, tummy and behind the ears. (Don’t use cold water; you can use cool or room temperature water).

6: You can place a fan nearby to help cooling

Keep taking their temperature and as soon as they come below 40°C you can stop cooling measures as this may drop their body temperature too low. If their temperature doesn’t come down after 5 minutes, you need to seek veterinary care.

At this point (if you haven’t already) you need to alert your veterinarian of the issue and if possible start pre-cooling your car to transport your pet.

It’s important to note that even if you’re able to bring their temperature down over several minutes, heat stroke can do severe damage to internal organs. You should always have them assessed by your vet.

Heat stroke in pets: When to skip cooling measures

In some instances, you may want to rather skip the steps above and head straight to the nearest vet or emergency clinic immediately. 

These instances could be:

  • When there’s no water or shade available
  • If you don’t have access to a thermometer
  • When your pet has diarrhoea or is vomiting, especially with blood
  • If you notice red or purple areas of bruising on your pet’s skin or gums. These small, pinpoint bruises, called petechiae, are often most visible inside the ears
  • When your pet is having seizures
heat stroke in pets

Preventing heat stroke in pets

Here’s what you can do to make sure your dog or cat is safe this summer:

  • Ensure they have access to a cool or shady spot at all times
  • Make sure they always have access to drinking water
  • Never leave your pet in the car, no matter how short it might be
  • Go for walks/exercise early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening when it’s cooler

Finally, some dogs and cats are more at risk and should be watched more closely on hot days. These include pets:

  • with thick coats
  • that are overweight or obese
  • that are very young or very old
  • with poor immunity
  • that have short noses or flat-faces
  • that have a poor heart or lung condition

Insurance for any emergency

Vital vet visits and hospital stays unfortunately aren’t cheap. Pet insurance is the best way to ensure you have adequate financial coverage in the case of an emergency. Let PD Insurance help you take away the stress of financial worries and unexpected vet bills so you can focus on the important parts of being a pet parent.

Share On:

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?