The summer is off to a sizzling start, and you don’t have to be outside long before you are dripping with sweat, and longing to step inside for a cool blast of air-conditioned air. Pets may feel the same way, but are not always able to tell you that the heat is putting them in danger. Ensure your pet stays safe this summer by exploring the stories of Leroy, T-rex, and Francine, three dogs who experienced heat-related conditions. 

#1: Heat stress in pets

Leroy is a bloodhound who returned from his walk, panting heavily, slurped up some water, leaving a shower of drool and water in his wake, and now is wandering around, acting like his usual derpy self. He is experiencing heat stress, which is the most mild of the heat-related conditions. After some time inside, he stops panting, curls up on the sofa for a nice snooze, and all is well.

#2: Heat exhaustion in pets

T-rex, an overweight black Labrador retriever, has come in from a five-mile run with his owner. He was slowing down the last mile or so, and could hardly walk by the time they got home. He is now laying on the cool tile floor, panting hard, and is alert, but seems too tired to get up. His owner brings him a giant bowl of water that he gratefully drains dry, and then asks for more. These signs go with heat exhaustion, which is a more severe form of heat stress.

This time, T-rex suffered no ill effects, and was bouncing around again after resting for several hours, but his owners need to be cautious so that next time he doesn’t suffer from exertional heatstroke—the type of heatstroke brought on by exercise in a warm environment—instead of only heat exhaustion. 

Being overweight, and a dark haircoat, make T-rex more susceptible to heat-related conditions than the average dog, so his owners should run with him only when it is cooler outside, take breaks, take water for him, and run a shorter distance, or let him stay home, and hold down the couch on particularly warm days.

#3: Heatstroke in pets

Francine is an older French bulldog who slipped into the car unnoticed when the owners were unloading groceries, and was trapped there for several hours. When her owners realize Francine isn’t inside, they run out to the car, and find her lying on her side, shaking, with a pile of vomit and bloody diarrhea nearby. She is unresponsive when they scoop her up, and has a seizure as her owners frantically rush her to Homestead Animal Hospital. Based on Francine’s signs, and a body temperature five degrees above normal, her veterinarian diagnoses non-exertional heatstroke—the type of heatstroke brought on by a hot location, such as a car or a yard lacking adequate shade and water.

Treatment of pets with heatstroke

Our Homestead Animal Hospital team starts to treat Francine through:

  • Cooling — Francine is carefully cooled by applying cool water to her body, placing her in front of a fan, and administering cool intravenous (IV) fluids. 
  • Administering oxygen — Dogs with heatstroke, especially those with short faces like Francine, benefit from receiving oxygen via a facemask, oxygen cage, or endotracheal (i.e. breathing) tube.
  • Monitoring — The veterinary team uses blood work, cardiac monitoring, and careful observation to rapidly detect heatstroke-related complications, such as organ failure, abnormal blood clotting, irregular heart rhythms, and ongoing brain damage. 

Heatstroke prevention in pets

Francine did recover fully, but not all dogs who suffer from heatstroke are so lucky. In this case, she had been locked in the car accidentally, but you must never intentionally leave your pets in the car during the summer—the interior of a car can reach 102 degrees in only 10 minutes, and a scorching 120 degrees in 30 minutes, on an 85-degree day. Short-nosed dogs like Francine are especially susceptible to heatstroke, because their reduced nasal passages, small nostrils, and narrow trachea make breathing and keeping cool more difficult on hot, humid days. In the future, Francine’s owners will be vigilant about ensuring she doesn’t sneak into the car, or spend too much time in the heat, in the yard without shade or water, and will take advantage of the cooler mornings and evenings for walks or playtime outside. 

Heatstroke can be fatal, so if your pet shows signs similar to Francine’s, wet them with cool water, and turn up your car’s air-conditioning, as you rush them to Homestead Animal Hospital, or your nearest emergency center. Never fully immerse your pet in water, or use ice-water for cooling, as this may cause more harm than good. If you suspect your pet is affected by a heat-related condition, but are unsure if they should be seen immediately, call our office during regular business hours, or to be connected with our GuardianVets service after hours. 

Help is a phone call away, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about heat-related conditions and your pet.