A Guide to Dealing with Pet Heatstroke


This summer, heatstroke will once again become a prevalent story in the Internet and in prime time news. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence despite widespread information campaigns – a number of dog owners still leave their pets inside their cars or have them stay outdoors, where the temperature can reach scorching levels.

However, even if you’re a responsible owner, it can still happen to your pet by accident. Just in case, you should learn how to administer first aid. It will come in handy and will probably save pets’ lives in the following months.

Know the Symptoms

Before you act like pet paramedics, let’s first learn the telling and the most visible symptoms of heatstroke in pets:
• Rapid breathing, as if it just finished running a 100-meter dash race.
• Panting, a symptom noticeable in cats (dogs pant all the time).
• Drooling and vomiting, brought about by nausea.
• High body temperature. This can be taken through a rectal thermometer.
• Reddened gums
• Seizures (clear the way in case this happens)
• Blood on the stools
Once any of these show up, stay calm and let your training and knowledge kick in.

Get the Victim to a Cool Location

The first thing you should do is to put the afflicted pet in a cool and shaded location. If the heatstroke happened on a parking lot, take the affected animal to a shaded area, or even inside a building. Do not place the dog in extremely cold locations, such as in front of an air conditioner, given that doing so will constrict the blood vessels.

Soak and Let It Drink

Give the pet a bowl of cool – not cold or iced – water. However, do not let it drink a lot: just give it enough to allow it to wet its mouth and throat. After which, soak its fur with cool water while massaging it to let the heat escape. Again, do not use iced or cold water, even if this seems to be the best idea.

Apply Ice Packs

Though this seems to be contradictory to the earlier steps, applying ice packs is an important step in getting rid of heat stroke. However, you can only do so in certain areas including underneath the front legs and the groin area.

Drive to the Vet

The reason why you administer first aid to a pet with heatstroke is to stabilize its temperature. No, your dog is not in the clear: you still need to drive it to the nearest veterinary hospital – be sure to call first – to ensure that no long term damage has taken place. Do not place your pet inside a crate: let it sit on the front seat while you’re driving. It’s important not to point the air conditioner into it: your pet may get too cold, triggering a shivering response which will cause internal heat.

After you arrive at the vet, let them handle the rest: they will monitor and try to address the long-term effects which may come in the form of kidney and liver damage. You will likely be given lifestyle tips and pet medications. Remember: never let your pet stay inside the car at all costs!

One Comment

  1. Putting a pet with heatstroke in the shade is a great idea. My dog had heatstroke earlier this summer, so we brought him inside, fast. I am so thankful that we had some water in the fridge, it cooled him down really well. My wife was so worried about him that she was crying at his appearance. My dog was fine though, I am so thankful that I was able to help him get better fast.

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