Summer with your pets – Heat Stroke in Dogs and Cats

Here’s hoping that you and your pets had a safe Independence Day in the United States. I imagine that most folks are off work today – meaning some time to spend with important ones in your family, including your dogs and cats.

I am late moving today after a weekend camping, although it involved rain, it was nice to get away.

But this being the beginning of summer, you should be thinking about Summer Time health issues, such as Heat Stroke.

Do you know WHAT to do?

Here is some of what I advise in my Inner Circle at


The signs depend upon the extent of heat stroke. In the early stages, your pet will pant rapidly, have thick, ropey saliva, and have bright red gums. His body temperature will be between 104-106°F.

As the body temperature climbs above 106°F, your pet will go into shock with subsequent organ shutdown.

He will have pale gums, be weak and dizzy, with vomiting and diarrhea. The brain becomes affected and he may seizure or fall into a coma. In this case, he requires immediate, life-saving veterinary intervention.

The normal body temperature of a dog or cat ranges between 38 – 39°C or 103°F. Our pets maintain this temperature through panting, however sometimes they are unable to lose enough heat. Dogs and cats probably do suffer from heat cramps and heat exhaustion like us humans but the symptoms are mild and we don’t recognize them. The condition that we see is heatstroke, and it may cause the death of a pet.


BEING IN A HOT CAR. Never leave your pet in a parked car in sunlight. The car heats up to be like a sauna even on mild days.

EXCESSIVE EXERCISE ON A HOT DAY. Minimize exercise in the heat of the day. Avoid exercising your dog in unusually hot or humid conditions especially at the start of summer. Most heatstroke cases are seen at the start of summer.

NOT ENOUGH SHADE OR COLD WATER. Make sure your pet has plenty of shade to escape to during the day. Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh cool water (the water should be placed in the shade) available at all times.


AWAY FROM THE HEAT. Remove your pet from the hot environment. Get him out of the car and away from the sun.

TO THE VET ASAP. If you suspect severe heatstroke and your pet has collapsed, get your pet immediate veterinary care. In this case, the organs may be shutting down and he needs specialized care to survive. While in transit it is important to continue to apply cool wet towels to the back of the neck and groin area.

WHAT’S THE TEMP? Use a rectal thermometer and find your pet’s exact temperature: if it is 104°F or higher, he has heatstroke, and you need to take action.

COOL DOWN. Run cold water over the back of your pet’s head. Place cold packs wrapped in towels between the back legs, on the belly and in the armpits. Wet towels can be used instead. You can use a garden hose to run the water over the back of his head.

ALCOHOL SOLUTION. Rubbing alcohol will also speed up heat loss; it can be applied to the belly and groin, cooling as it evaporates. Liberally spread it on the skin; the most important thing is reducing the temperature in a controlled way.

DO NOT IMMERSE IN COLD WATER. This treatment does bring your pet’s temperature down, but tends to overcorrect it and then your pet may be seriously unwell, cold and wet.

RE-HYDRATE. Let your pet drink as much cold water as he can. If you have an electrolyte replacement, such as Gatorade, then add this to his water. If your pet drinks lots of water at once it is very likely to vomit. Once your pet is refusing water you can leave the bowl of water with it.

WATCH FOR SHOCK. Pets with severe heatstroke are at risk for shock. In this case you don’t want to wrap him in a blanket, but you can at least provide sugar. Rub corn syrup or honey on his gums while you are in transit to your vet.

DO NOT OVERCOOL. When your pet stops panting, they are likely at a normal temperature. You can check this by taking their temperature again. If it’s 103°F or 38 °C then stop the cooling.

SPECIAL CASES. Certain breeds are at a high risk for heatstroke, namely the brachycephalics (dogs with pushed-in faces). These include Pugs and Bulldogs; they snore and snort and have difficulty breathing at the best of time. In spite of them being a veterinarian’s best friend, you should avoid exercising them on hot days, and always be on the lookout for early signs of heatstroke.


P.S. To know EXACTLY what to do for most common dog and cat emergencies, get a copy of pet first aid secrets here:

Heal Your Pet At Home!

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew Jones, DVM

3 thoughts on “Summer with your pets – Heat Stroke in Dogs and Cats”

  1. This is a pet peeve of mine. I ALWAYS have water for my dogs — and I NEVER see anyone else who does the same.

    I live in Manhattan. Some of the parks now have those dog fountains, but I don’t like to use them because if one sick dog drinks from it, the rest of the dogs will get sick — not to mention that in the winter dogs pee all over them!

    I was in the dog run recently, and when I gave my dogs some water all the other dogs came running over to drink! Do you think the dopey owners got it?

    What happens when they get home — they drink a lot of water and have to pee again! And I assume they have to wait to be walked again, when they’ll come back thirsty and the same will happen again! I’m sure that if the poor dogs have an accident, the owner has no idea why!

    I don’t get it…I see some people running with their dogs, and even they don’t have water for their dogs. Once I even saw a woman on a bicycle dragging her poor dog on a day when the temperature was over 90 degrees!

    What annoys me most is that occasionally people tell me that my dogs look thirsty — and I’m the only one I see that carries water! This happened the other day when there was a container of water right in front of the dogs!

    I also notice that dog owners don’t seem to realize how hot the concrete sidewalk gets — they leave their dogs in the sun when they enter stores, and the poor dogs are doing a dance because their feet are hot!

  2. I so appreciate your being’re always there when we need you..makes me feel secure and keeps my dog happy. Add to that…you are sooo hot!

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