Recognizing the Signs of Heatstroke in Pets

Spending time outdoors with our furry friends is a fantastic summertime activity. As thetemperature outside increases, so too does the risk of heatstroke.  Heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature elevates dramatically, creating a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated promptly and properly.  Recognizing the signs of heatstroke in our pets is important to averting potentially deadly consequences.

Recognize the Signs of Heatstroke in Your Pets

Extreme temperatures put pets at risk for heatstroke. While any animal can suffer from heatstroke, those at particular risk include the very old, very young, those who are overweight, have heart or respiratory disease, or those who are not conditioned to prolonged exercise.  Dog and cat breeds with short muzzles, including boxers, pugs, shih tzus and Persians, are also more susceptible to heatstroke.   Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that can lead to organ damage or failure, and even death.  Recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and treating it rapidly is key to preventing dire consequences.

Signs of heatstroke in cats include:

  • Restlessness as your cat searches for a cooler spot
  • Excessive grooming
  • Panting
  • Sweaty paws
  • Drooling
  • Redness of the tongue and mouth
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Profuse drooling
  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Glazed eyes
  • Lethargy/Weakness/Unconsciousness
  • Lack of coordination/Dizziness
  • Seizure
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea

What to Do?

Move your pet immediately to a cool area and start to cool him down to decrease his temperature.  Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, under the forelimbs, and in the groin area, or run cool (not cold) water over him.  Ice packs can also be applied.  Let him drink cool water or lick ice cubes.  Most importantly, take him directly to the veterinarian for care.