Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that results when pets cannot adequately rid themselves of excess body heat. Pets rely on panting to cool down. Although panting is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas with high humidity or low ventilation. The intake of cool, fresh water improves the cooling effects of panting.

Dogs with pug noses are more likely to develop heatstroke because their small nasal passages make it difficult to circulate sufficient air for cooling. Overweight dogs, whose extra layers of fat act as insulation, are also prone to overheating. Age can also be a factor in an animal’s tendency to overheat. Very young pets and elderly pets are likely to develop heatstroke.

“Parked cars are potential death traps for pets during the warm months,” says Rob Graham, CVT & Practice Manager of Animal Health Services. “Even on a mild, sunny day, the temperature inside a car can quickly climb to more than 120° F. Never leave your pet alone in a parked car.”

The warning signs of heatstroke include panting, staring or anxious expressions, a refusal to obey commands, warm and dry skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat and possibly vomiting. If your pet shows these signs, lower the body temperature quickly with cool water, either by immersion or by spraying thoroughly with a garden hose. But be careful not to overcool your pet, and never use ice. Call your veterinarian immediately.

Ways to prevent heatstroke for pets that spend most of their time outdoors, is by making sure there is adequate shelter for protection from the midday sun and heat. Outdoor kennels should be well-ventilated and in a shaded area. There should always be some shade for the pet to get out of the sun. Also, make sure there is plenty of fresh drinking water available to your pet. The bowl should be placed in a shaded area where it cannot be heated by the sun. Provide a few bowls in case your pet tips one over.

By looking out for these signs and following the tips, you can help your pet to avoid heatstroke.