Heat stroke can kill your pet

Although most pets can suffer from heat stroke, dogs and cats are probably those pets most commomnly treated for heat stroke. While there are many common factors, we will deal with the two species separately.


Dogs do not sweat (or "glow" for the ladies reading this!) like humans do. Their only mechanism for getting rid of excess body heat is by panting. This has 2 major drawbacks; (a) they can't get rid of excess heat as fast humans can due to the smaller surface area available for exchanging hot air for cold air and (b) if the environmental temperature is high they simply end up exchanging hot air for more hot air!

As dog owners, one needs to avoid subjecting your dog to the following circumstances:
1) Strenuous exercise in hot and humid weather (no matter how much you think the dog may enjoy the run!)
2) Being left in a closed vehicle in hot weather (even if a window is left slightly open).
3) Being kept on concrete or asphalt surfaces without shade or cool water.
4) Being muzzled while being dried using a hot air flow (hairdryer etc)

In addition, the following dogs are more prone to heat stroke:
1) Brachycephalic breeds i.e. those with noses that look like they ran full tilt into a wall nose first e.g. boxers, bulldogs, pugs etc.
2) Those known to suffer from heart or respiratory problems or any other condition (obesity!) that would interfere with normal breathing abilities.
3) Animals already running a temperature due to some infectious disease.

Symptoms of heat stroke include heavy panting and possibly respiratory distress. The rectal temperature will be way above normal (e.g. up to 110F/43C), the tongue and mucous membranes will be bright red and vomiting and bloody diarrhoea can be followed by collapse and death.

Heat stroke or heat exhaustion (different name, same problem) is a real emergency. The dog needs to be cooled down immediately. Start by removing the animal from the source of the heat. Then institute cooling measures such as putting it in a cool bath or hosing it down with the garden hose and then putting the dog in front of a fan.

Care should be taken to not cool the animal excessively. Ideally cooling should take place until the rectal temperature reaches the upper normal limits. If no rectal thermometer is available then a good dose of common sense is needed and you will need to monitor the dog closely to decide when to stop cooling procedures.

Always take the dog to a vet for a check up after a heat exhaustion incident (if you haven't managed to get the dog there initially).Post heat exhaustion complications are possible and it is always wise to try to establish if there is an underlying predisposing condition present.


Most of what has been detailed above also applies to cats. However, there are some differences that need to be highlighted.

1) Cats don't normally pant while dogs do. Heat stressed cats will however display rapid breathing in their attempts to get rid of excess body heat.

2) Cats may drool and spread the excess saliva over their coats which then evaporates in the heat and cools the body.

3) Many cats are not very fond of water and might object to being bathed or hosed down. Handle them gently but firmly - this is no time to get involved in an argument with your cat!

4) Cats can move from overheated to hypothermia fairly quickly, so monitor body heat carefully.

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition. Don't place your pets at risk by putting them in heat stroke inducing situations that they can't escape from.