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Heatstroke Risk and Prevention in Pets

With the summer months heating up, you need to be extra careful when spending time outdoors with your pets! Some animals are not able to tolerate heat as well as we can, so you might have a case of excessive panting and low energy on your hands if your pet spends too much time in the sun.

Our pets cannot regulate the amount of time they spend in the sun - it is down to us to help them.

In case you are wondering about the signs and symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, here is a handy guide to check straight away:

  • Labored, difficult panting and/or extreme amounts of panting

  • Bright red gums, tongue, ears and skin

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • Signs of lethargy. Are they reacting to calls for their attention?

  • A rapid heart rate

  • Unsteady on their feet - they appear to stagger instead of walk normally

These signs and symptoms do not only occur when your pet is left inside a vehicle. Due to a dog’s lack of sweat glands, they cannot cool down as effectively as humans, meaning they are much more vulnerable to overheating in any warm setting.

If you notice signs of heatstroke, avoid the temptation to submerge your pet in cold water - this sudden change in temperature can send them into shock.

How can you prevent your pet from suffering a heatstroke?

Now that you know what symptoms to look out for, what are the best ways to prevent this situation happening in the first place?

First of all, try to limit outdoor activity to early morning and evening hours, when the sun is less strong. If you have access to air conditioning or a garden hose, you can help your dog to cool down this way.

It is also important to know that brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breeds of dog such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers are more likely to suffer from heatstroke because of their narrower windpipes. If you own one of these breeds, be extra-vigilant when spending time outdoors in the heat.

Here are a few ways to reduce the risk of your pets suffering from a heatstroke in the summer:

  • Take a portable drinking bowl with you if you are going on a trip. Refill with cool water as often as needed, and make sure that your pet drinks regularly throughout the day.

  • Take intermittent breaks from the heat. Instead of spending four consecutive hours roasting in the sun at the beach, take your pet into a shady spot every once in a while so they can cool off.

  • Consider buying your pet a cooling vest that helps them better regulate their temperature on a hot day.

  • You probably don’t need telling this, but please remember not to leave your pet inside a parked car on a hot day! The glass windows act to make the inside temperature up to 20 degrees warmer than outdoors, and heatstroke can occur in just minutes.

As long as you take the necessary precautions, you likely will not need to worry about your pet suffering from heatstroke! Remember the signs and symptoms, and take your pet straight to an emergency veterinarian if they display any of them.


Jack Vale is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with online health and safety training provider, AdvanceOnline.

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