Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

With the rising temperatures in Philadelphia, we want to make sure your pet is staying cool and comfortable this summer! Unlike humans who sweat, dogs eliminate heat from their bodies by panting. When panting isn’t enough, a dog’s body temperature rises, and they can experience heat stroke, which can become fatal if not treated immediately. Brachycephalic dogs (French bulldogs, pugs, etc.) are at an even greater risk as they are less efficient at panting and dissipating heat.

There are stages of hyperthermia in our canine patients that precede heat stroke. First there is heat fatigue, this is usually identified by lethargy and muscle cramping from increased body temperatures, these patients can also have excessive panting. This is usually not life-threatening if treated appropriate and the patient is cooled down. The next phase is heat exhaustion, when the patient shows weakness, injected mucus membranes and even some agitation. If this stage is not identified, it will lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is characterized by a core body temperature above 104* F with evidence of central nervous system dysfunction, this most commonly manifests as a seizure, delirium, or coma. This is a serious life-threatening condition that can happen within minutes of experiencing extreme hyperthermia. That is why keeping your dog cool over the summer is so important.


FIRST, call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital and tell them you are on your way. While on the way, travel with the windows open and the air conditioner on.

Until you can get to the veterinarian, be sure to:|

1) Remove the dog from the hot environment immediately.

2) Do not give the dog any over the counter medications.

3) Let your dog drink cool water as they want without forcing them to drink.

4) Cool your dog off with cold water by placing a soaked towel on their back.


As a pet owner, it is important to be aware of the outside temperature and take appropriate measures to prevent heat stroke, especially during hot and humid conditions. When outdoors, always make sure your dog is in a well-ventilated area with access to plenty of water and shade. Take them on short walks during this time. While traveling in cars, make sure there is ventilation and the air conditioning on. NEVER leave your dog in a car with the windows closed.

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