Protect Your Pet from Heatstroke

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As we head into the summer months, pets become susceptible to heatstroke (also known as heat stress). It can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Unfortunately many pet owners don’t realize that their cats and dogs can overheat when the weather is simply changing from say 65 degrees to 75 degrees. Our animals need as much, and in some cases more, time as we do to acclimate to temperature shifts.

Both Cats and Dogs Can Get Heatstroke.
Cats and dogs can’t respond to heat in the same way that humans do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies that help us regulate our temperature, but dogs and cats only have a few in their feet and around their noses. Many animals rely on panting and external cooling to control heat.

Certain breeds of cats and dogs are more prone to overheating when temperatures rise to between 75-80 degrees. Flat-faced breeds such as pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Persian and Himalayan cats have a limited ability to cool off due to the fact that their shortened snouts aren’t as effective at cooling off through panting. While any animal can quickly progress to life-threatening heatstroke, we see this more commonly in these breeds.

Additionally, if your pet has other health conditions such as being overweight, older, or having heart disease, they could get heatstroke more quickly.

What Are the Symptoms of Heatstroke in Your Pet?
While the best thing to do is avoid having your pet outdoors if it is over 75-80 degrees, here are signs to look for so you can take action to protect your pet against heatstroke:

  • Panting, which increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing and lying down


How Can You Prevent Your Pet from Getting Heatstroke?

The good news is that you can help prevent heatstroke by ensuring your pets are kept in appropriate conditions and by being aware of the symptoms—then action can be taken if needed. There are even items like cooling collars, vests, mats and bandanas you can buy for your pet that help them stay “chilled out.”

  • Avoid exercising animals in hot weather.
  • Take longer walks in the early morning or late evening, avoiding exercise during the heat of the day.
  • Avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas, or any other areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your car. Even on cooler days the car’s internal temperature can be fatal.
  • Have a cool, well-ventilated space for your pet.
  • When outside, your pets should always have access to shade.
  • Keep plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available.


What You Can Do if You Suspect Heatstroke:

Act quickly and contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect heatstroke. Other steps you can also take include:

  • Take your pet out of the heat or sun into a cooler, air-conditioned, or shady area
  • Apply or spray tepid/cool water onto your pet. (Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this may worsen the problem.)
  • Wet down the area around your pet. Or use a wet towel for your pet to lie on.

Enjoy your outdoor activities with your best pet friend. But take a few simple precautions as well as keeping an eye out for symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Even if you just suspect your pet might have heatstroke, or you tended to them and think they are recovering, they should still be checked by your veterinarian ASAP. If you need any emergency services, you can contact our Pacific Heights Campus 7am-10pm, or our Mission Campus 8am-5pm, 7 days a week. Call 415.554.3030. We recommend storing this number in your cell phone.

During this time of the coronavirus outbreak, we are still actively continuing to help animals in need. Please consider donating to our SF SPCA COVID-19 Emergency Fund today. Every little bit helps us save lives.

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