As is the case with most catastrophes, heat exhaustion in pets sneaks up on owners. By the time symptoms are noticeable, the situation can be barreling toward perilous at a frighteningly fast pace.

The good news is that heat exhaustion in pets is entirely preventable! Minimizing your pet’s exposure to the heat is the best place to start, but there are additional strategies to keep them safe, comfortable, and healthy this summer.

The Wrong Kind of Hyper

Pets pant and sweat through their paw pads, but they aren’t able to effectively regulate their body temperature like we do. Hyperthermia occurs when excessive heat overtakes a pet’s inadequate cooling system, and can range from mild (heat exhaustion) to severe (heat stroke).

When temperatures exceed 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet has likely been overexposed to heat. Temperatures over 105 degrees Farhenheit may be linked to heat stroke.

At-Risk Pets

All pets can suffer from the intense effects of the summer sun, but the following pets may be considered higher-risk:

  • Senior pets
  • Overweight or obese pets
  • Brachycephalic breeds
  • Very young pets
Pets with limited or no access to shade, cross-ventilation and cool water are more likely to suffer.

A Word About Cars and Pets

Heat exhaustion in pets is most commonly the result of being left alone in a parked car. A warm day of just 80 degrees can create sweltering conditions inside a vehicle (even if the windows are cracked and the car is parked in the shade) in a matter of minutes. It can become fatal for pets who are left alone for longer periods of time.

Know the Signs of Heatstroke in Pets

To manage the risks associated with heatstroke, it is absolutely critical to stop the initial signs of heat exhaustion in pets before the get out of hand, such as:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Dry nose
  • Increased heart rate
  • Warm to touch
  • Lethargic
  • Bright red or pale gums
Typically, heat exhaustion in pets can be treated at home. However, if symptoms persist they can develop into heatstroke in the following ways:
  • Excessively high temperature (105 degrees or higher)
  • Unresponsive
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in mouth or stool
  • Organ failure
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
The above symptoms constitute a real pet emergency. Please act quickly and call us for help.

Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Pets

Heat exhaustion in pets is preventable by limiting their risk. Minimize their time outside in the direct sun between 10 am and 4 pm. Always provide breaks in the shade, cool water, and access to air conditioning or fans.

If you think your pet has become too hot:

  • Stop everything and give them a chance to cool down inside with the AC blowing.
  • Take their temperature.
  • Apply lukewarm water-soaked washcloths or towels to their stomach, groin, armpits, head, neck, and back.
  • While you want to act quickly, stop applying the compresses when the rectal temperature is 103 degrees (temperatures can descend too quickly toward critical levels).
  • Call us to determine if your pet should be treated in our hospital (IV fluid therapy, low-concentration oxygen therapy, mild sedation, and ongoing monitoring, etc.)
If you have further questions about summer pet safety, please contact our veterinarians  at Town & Country Animal Hospital.