Question: What Are The Signs Of Heat Stroke In Pets?

By: Christine Attridge-Hardy

Imagine not being able to shed your winter clothes on a hot summer day, and your only means of cooling off was by panting. Dogs and cats have little choice when it comes to keeping cool in summer heat. Recognizing the signs of heatstroke will allow for prompt treatment; and time is of the essence when treating this condition.

  • body temperatures of 104-110F degrees
  • excessive panting
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • sticky or dry tongue and gums
  • staggering
  • stupor
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • coma
  • death

It is wise to learn how to take your pets temperature in the event of an emergency. Short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.

If You Suspect Heat Stroke

 Seek veterinary attention immediately!

  • Find some shade. Get your pet out of the heat.
  • Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.)
  • Cool wet cloth on feet and around head.
  • Do not aid body cooling below 37 degrees – some animals can actually get hypothermic ( to cold)
  • Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian, but do not force ice or water to your pet.

Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine.

Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs are definitely affected by body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this.

There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that may be fatal.

Heat Stroke is Deadly in a Short Amount of Time

If you have any questions about heatstroke in your pet or find a pet locked in a car, please contact your veterinarian or local animal authorities immediately. Heat Stroke is a very time critical condition.