Hot Under the Collar: Reducing Heatstroke in Pets

by Brooke Van Dyk   Are you addicted to running, even when it’s hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk? Do you power through the heat while you power-walk, regardless of how sweaty you get? Or are you simply looking out for your cat or dog, making sure that they get all the exercise they need?

Hot Under Collar Dog Heatstroke  Article - Image 1 - Tamara Bellis Photo - Dr. Jeff Werber Veterinarian Blog

No matter what your reasons, summer exercise is an important tool for keeping you -- and your pets -- happy and healthy. But it’s important to consider the effects that all that sunshine can have on your pooch. Heatstroke in pets can be a serious issue, causing damage to your cat or dog’s health. All pets can suffer from overheating and dehydration. Luckily, you can keep your pet safe while enjoying the heat with these cool tips.

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Dehydration in Cats and Dogs

Excessive heat can trigger dehydration and heat stroke for your cat or dog, and in extreme cases can lead to cardiac arrhythmia. While this sounds scary, you can avoid these dangers and keep your pet safe by knowing what symptoms to look for. 

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You can check for dehydration in your pets by looking for some easy indicators. Dehydrated cats and dogs often have sunken eyes and dry noses and mouths. They may be less responsive than normal or may appear disoriented. Finally, in both cats and dogs, you can test for dehydration by “skin tenting”: pull up a small portion of their skin, and then let go. If the skin is sluggish in returning to its original position, your pet is likely dehydrated. In cases of severe dehydration, your cat or dog may start to vomit or have diarrhea. If this happens, you should call your vet immediately.


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Overheating and Heatstroke for Cats and Dogs

Overheating can be more challenging to assess than simple dehydration. Most pets do not slow down when they are too hot, especially when they’re distracted or having fun. Heatstroke in pets can be life-threatening if not prevented or treated. This leaves their human friends with the responsibility to keep their cats and dogs cool. 

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One way to see if your pet is overheating is to listen to their breathing. Cats and dogs cool off by panting. If their panting is excessively fast or noisy, this could indicate that your pet needs to take a break in the shade. Your furry friends may also seem dizzy and disoriented, or in severe cases, they may collapse or convulse. As with dehydration, it’s critical to bring your pet to a vet if severe overheating is suspected.

Preventing Heatstroke in Pets: Keeping Your Pets Safe Outside

Concerned? Don’t be! You can keep your pets safe and healthy this summer using our helpful summer guidelines. These tips are geared towards cats and dogs but can be applied to any pet you may have!

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  • Trim Those Locks: Excessively furry pets may be adorable (here’s looking at you, Himalayas!), but long fur coats are problematic in the summer sun. Give your pet a haircut this summer to keep them stylish and cool. 
  • Beat the Heat: On especially hot and humid days, try taking your cat outside during the evening. This will help her stay out of the beating sun, and will naturally keep her cooler. Evening walks can be better for your dog, too, and reduce the risk of overheating and dehydration!

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  • Cool as a Cucumber: Like the cute little booties to protect your pet’s feet from the snow, summer cooling vests can protect your pets from the dangers of summer rays. These vests come in a variety of sizes, colours, and cooling capabilities.
  • Summertime Splashing: Why not take a trip to the beach? Your pup likely loves to swim just as much as you do. Any body of water will do! Or, if you’re looking for a more home-based method, try putting a sprinkler out in your backyard.

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  • Seasonal Snacks: Your pet can lose electrolytes and other important nutrients when they overheat. Try some homemade treats to boost your pet’s nutrition and keep them healthy and cool this summer!
  • It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, it’s: Airvet to the rescue! If you’ve tried all of these tips and your pet still seems like they’re overheating, talk to a vet. Airvet lets you talk to a real veterinarian at any time of the day (or night). They can help you understand what’s going on with your pet, so you can make an informed decision on how to best keep your pet safe. 


Visit Dr. Jeff Werber’s Instagram account (@werbs_dvm) to view and submit questions and answers on weekly AMAs – or call and leave a voicemail at 424-835-0576. Your call will be returned posthaste. For emergencies, download Dr. Jeff Werber’s app Airvet, a video-chat option for veterinary needs at any time of day or night!