University of Florida

Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

Similar to humans, pets are susceptible to certain heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke during the summer months. As you take care of yourself and your family in the sun, also remember to pay special attention to your animal family members, too!

While heat stroke (hyperthermia) can happen to a variety of domesticated animals, make certain you know whether your pet has a predisposition to overheating. For example, dogs with short snouts, overweight animals, and pets who have suffered from hyperthermia in the past may be likely to experience a heat stroke. Follow these steps to learn how you can help prevent your pet from overheating:

  • Don’t leave your pet in a parked vehicle (even if it’s running).
  • Give pets plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Summer haircuts are nice, but don’t completely shave pets—their coats protect them from overheating.
  • Allow pets to cool off in the shade when outside.
  • Use animal-specific sunscreen.
  • Reduce heavy exercise in high temperatures.

Recognizing Heat Stroke Symptoms

Knowing the warning signs of heat stroke can help you identify if your pet is in danger. Watch out for these signs during warmer weather:

  • Heavy panting or breathing difficulties
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizure
  • Glazed eyes
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Salivation
  • Dark red or purple tongue
  • Unconsciousness

If you believe your pet is suffering from a heat stroke, there are some things you can do to cool your furry friend down.

  • Move your pet from the heat to an air-conditioned or shady area if possible.
  • Take the animal’s temperature.
  • Apply water-soaked towels or ice packs to your pet’s head, neck, chest, stomach, and feet, or run cool water over him or her.
  • Allow your pet to drink small amounts of water.
  • Take your pet to the nearest veterinarian immediately—even if you have successfully cooled them down.

Remember, we can’t control the weather, but we can help keep our pets safe from extreme temperatures so that even they can enjoy the season!

For more information on heat stroke and other veterinary emergencies, contact the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital emergency and critical care service at 352-392-2235.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Hot Weather Tips,” ASPCA. (Accessed 8/2013)
Keep Pets Safe in the Heat,” The Humane Society of the United States (7/2013).
Protecting Your Pets from the Heat,” American Red Cross. (Accessed 8/2013).

pet heat stroke

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