Prevent Heatstroke in Pets

How to protect your pet from a heatstroke

Summary: This article covers useful tips on how to protect your pet from the summer heat and prevent a heatstroke, during the warmest summer period.

As the cold winter weather gives way to spring and now summer and humidity, we must keep in mind that our pets may suffer more than we do from the heat. Let's go over some important information and tips so we can better know how to protect both dogs and cats from extreme temperatures during this hot season.

First off, neither cats nor dogs can sweat as we do and cool off, what they use is their respiratory tract to eliminate the extra heat. Breeds that have short snouts have issues with both breathing and cooling off, so these require extra care and protection from extreme heat.

Can I leave my pet in the car?

When it comes to pets and vehicles, the most common recommendation, one that will save a life is, never to leave your pet unattended in a car for any period of time. Hundreds of pets die as a result of being left in hot cars every year. Vehicles heat up to dangerous levels quickly in the summer months. Parking in the shade, opening windows, and even leaving the air conditioning on, will not prevent a dangerous situation.

If for some reason you won't be able to take your pet out of the car with you, then the best strategy is to leave them at home.

What about hydration?

Make sure your pet has plenty of access to fresh water. Excessive panting, lethargy, loss of skin elasticity, vomiting, and refusal to drink or drinking too much are all signs of dehydration. If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, contact us right away.

Can hot sidewalks burn your dog's feet?

These injuries do happen and can become severe enough to blister their paw pads. Ouch! These burns are also prone to becoming infected from the dirt and debris they come into contact with. If you've ever had to walk barefoot on hot sand, you know how painful it can be!

Test the sidewalk with the back of your hand, holding it there for 7 seconds – if it is too hot for your hand, it's too hot for your pet's feet! Avoid walks during the hottest part of the day and try to venture out during the cooler morning or evening hours.

Try to limit walks to grassy areas and only walk on the pavement when necessary and for short periods of time. There are also products you can purchase at most pet stores to help protect those paws! Paw wax and special summer booties are great ideas for helping your pet stay cool and safe.

Dogs and sunscreen

Should you put sunscreen on white dogs, especially boxers? White, shorthaired dogs and dogs that have an allergy, age-induced hair loss, or have had their fur shaved extremely short (due to surgery or matting) can benefit from sunscreen. Areas with low pigmentation, the bridge of the nose, ear tips, lips, belly, and groin are most susceptible to sunburns.

It is recommended to use an SPF 15 or 30 fragrance-free sunscreen that does not have an ingestion warning just in case the pet licks some of it off. There are also especially pet-formulated sunscreens that you can purchase at most pet stores.

Are overweight pets at a higher risk of heatstroke?

Puppies and kittens, flat-faced dogs, elderly pets, overweight pets, pets with existing medical conditions or pets who are new to a region and have not experienced extreme heat before are all at higher risk of developing heatstroke.

It is important to constantly monitor your pet when they are out in extreme heat — especially if they fit the above criteria. Take them out only for bathroom breaks before sunset

Is drooling (hypersalivation) a symptom of heatstroke?

Drooling is a symptom of heatstroke, other symptoms include deep red or purple gums, rapid heart rate, unsteadiness, glassy eyes, dry nose, confusion, and seizures.

Any of these symptoms after prolonged heat exposure could indicate a medical emergency. Call us immediately if you think your pet may have a heat stroke

Is it dangerous for a dog to eat ice cubes?

It is a myth that adding ice cubes to cool their water down or offering them to chew on ice cubes will cause stomach bloat (also known as GDV). Large barrel-chested dogs are at risk of developing bloat if they drink too much water too quickly, but ice water does not increase the risk.

Make sure your dog always has steady access to freshwater to keep them from gulping down too much all at once (same for cats too!)

Does shaving dogs in the summer prevent heatstrokes?

Breeds like Pomeranians, Akitas, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs have specially formulated undercoats to help them stay warm in winter.

Shaving their fur gets rid of this short, woolly layer, but it also gets rid of the longer hairs that protect the skin from the sun's rays, leaving them susceptible to overheating and sunburn. When the undercoat starts growing back in, it will grow coarse and keep cool air from circulating through the coat.

The best way to help these breeds keep cool is by lots of regular brushing to thin out the undercoat!

Are certain dog breeds more susceptible to heatstroke?

Flat-faced breeds like Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers are at higher risk because of their obstructed airways (large tongues and soft elongated soft palates). This makes it hard for them to lower their body temperature by panting, so they need extra attention on hot days to keep them from overheating.


Keep these tips in mind and you and your pet will be cool and safe during these hot and sunny months! If you have any questions about how to help keep your dog safe & happy during the hot summer season, give us a call and we'll be happy to help!

This article provides a summary view of some aspects you need to know about pets and how to protect them from the summer heat. We recommend you take the time to talk in detail with one of our licensed veterinarians. She/he will provide the best suggestions and strategies for your pet. For an appointment please contact us at (416) 966-1830.