Heat Awareness in Pets

Summer time and the living is easy.  Fish are jumpin’ and the dog’s tongue is hangin’ to the ground.

There’s a reason for that.  Dogs do not perspire.  They lose body heat and moisture by panting.  Cats also pant but usually only under extreme conditions.  Panting in cats usually indicates severe heat stress or other stress.  Cats tend to be more sedentary in hot weather.  That’s a nice way of saying that they have more common sense about living in hot weather.

This guy knows what's up.

Like us our canine friends become more active in the summer.  We want them to enjoy the season but some restraint is necessary at times to avoid problems. Extreme heat can obviously be dangerous, but likewise in late spring and early summer sudden increases in temperature from cool to moderately warm can also be dangerous.  The body needs some time to acclimate as temperature rises.

Heat stress occurs when the dog’s panting cannot maintain normal body temperatures.  Core body temp’s will rise to 102.0 or higher. 

Signs of heat stress include:

  1.  Excessive panting and drooling
  2. An appearance of anxiety
  3. Dark pink to red mucous membranes (gums and tongue).
  4. Shade seeking or wanting to stand in water (creeks, ponds, etc)

If left unattended heat stress can lead to heat stroke.  This is a critical situation that can cause permanent damage or death.  Core body temperatures will rise to 106.0 or higher. This can progress to organ damage or complete organ failure.

Signs of heart stroke include:

  1.  All the signs listed above except more extreme
  2. A rapid heart rate
  3. Lying down and refusing to move
  4. A body that feels hot to the touch
  5. Shivering uncontrollably
  6. Poor balance or inability to walk
  7. Respiratory distress leading to shock
  8. Seizures, coma, and death

Treatment of heat stress is about cooling off.  Get the dog into a cooler environment and consider a cool water bath.  Use of fans or air conditioning will accelerate cooling.  If you suspect a more severe stress or heat stroke start cooling methods immediately. A cool water bath or hosing off with cool water should be started.  Then get him or her veterinary care ASAP.  Once there the cooling process will continue.  IV fluids will be run rapidly to combat shock and aid in organ preservation.  If necessary a cool water enema will be administered. Seizure activity will be managed medically.  These cases are always hospitalized to continue fluid therapy and temperature monitoring.  Serial bloodwork is done to monitor liver and renal function and correct any electrolyte abnormalities.  The cardiovascular system is monitored also. Once stable monitoring continues. Damage to organs may take days to develop.

Rule of thumb: if you are not sure about the severity always seek veterinary care.  Always!

Wow!  Let’s avoid all this with some common sense prevention.

  1.  Treat your dog as you would yourself.  Allow proper acclimation to hot humid weather.  Start with brief periods of play/exertion and slowly increase over a 2 to 3 week period.
  2. Always allow free access to fresh drinking water.
  3. Allow free access to shaded areas.  House pets should be allowed back into their home as they request.  
  4. Avoid keeping them in areas you know heat up during the day:  dog houses, garages, sheds, etc.
  5. Limit time outdoors during periods of extreme heat/humidity. 
  6. Do not hesitate to visit your groomer for a ‘strip down’.  They will be much more comfortable and the hair will grow back. (Though, some breeds are better suited with their coat. Ask your groomer or vet for more information!)
  7. Never, NEVER  put any pet in a parked unattended car with windows closed.  In warm months do not assume that ‘cracking’ the windows will suffice.

8.Increased risk factors include obesity, cardiovascular disease, brachycephalic  breeds(dogs with pushed in noses like bulldogs), respiratory disease such as C.O.P.D. and allergies including asthma, and all geriatrics.  These dogs have to be monitored much more closely with very limited times in heat and humidity.

So, have a great summer. Enjoy the long warm days. Grill out, picnic, go to ballgames, and don’t forget to check on your best friend now and then.


Office Hours


8:00 am-5:00 pm


8:00 am-5:00 pm


8:00 am-3:00 pm


7:30 am-5:00 pm


7:30 am-12:30 pm

2:00 pm-5:00 pm


8:00 am-1:00 pm



Our Location