Heatstroke- Recognition, Treatment, Prevention

HEAT STROKE – Recognition, Treatment, Prevention

We’ve already had one summer heat wave and many more to come. It’s time to think about modifying your dog walking and exercise patterns with your pets. Animals respond differently to high temperatures and high humidity than people do, so I want to make you aware of one of summer’s deadliest pet problems – Heat Stroke.

It is a very serious condition in which the exercising animal’s body creates more heat than it can dissipate. Since dog’s and cat’s skin has very few sweat glands they rely on panting air over their wet tongues to provide cooling through evaporation of saliva. When both heat and humidity are very high, minimal evaporation occurs causing body temperature to sometimes climb beyond 108 degrees! You may see any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Rapid labored panting
  • Very red gums and severely bloodshot eyes
  • Confusion, disorientation, or malaise
  • Sometimes severe agitation, tremors, or seizures
  • Vomiting and / or liquid diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • A Body that is very hot to the touch

All of this can happen in 15 to 20 minutes with HIGH HEAT AND HUMIDITY, even in the morning or evening, the supposed “safe” dog walking times of the day. This is an IMMEDIATE LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY REQUIRING ACTION EVEN BEFORE ARRIVING AT A VETERINARY FACILITY.

  • Start the cooling process immediately by applying cool water to the entire thorax, abdomen, limbs, paw pads, top of head, and ears.
  • Re-treat every 5 minutes on your way to the nearest veterinary facility. Fanning initially can be helpful to increase evaporation and cooling, but prolonged fanning or applying rubbing alcohol on the body may actually drop the body temperature too low.
  • If your pet is conscious, try giving cool water to drink, or at least to moisten the oral mucous membranes as long as no vomiting ensues.
  • If severely agitated, try to calm your pet.

Heat Stroke Can Be Prevented

  • Certain “flat-nosed” breeds, especially the English bull dogs, pugs, pekinese, Boston terriers, and French bull dogs are predisposed by anatomic airway restrictions and must be monitored closely in the spring, summer, and fall.
  • When considering exercising your pet, you must be aware of both the air temperature and humidity levels before leaving the house.
  • Carry WATER with you and make periodic stops, preferably three to four times per hour of exercise, to allow both you and your pet to hydrate.
  • Remember, humans sweat profusely to stay cool – dogs and cats don’t. Your pet can develop Heat Stroke long before you will.

Please, NEVER leave your pet alone in the car on a warm day.

“Cracked” windows do not matter! The inside of the car acts like an oven and temperatures can soar to 140 degrees in a matter of minutes.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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