Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

Heat Stroke (“Don’t lose your cool….”)

Dr. Victoria Cole

Heat stroke/exhaustion can be a rapidly life-threatening emergency. Below are some basic tips and prevention information to avoid this scary situation in your beloved family members. Please keep in mind that the normal temperature for a dog and cat is 99.5-102.5 F.  Elevated body temperature over 105 F warrants a true emergency. 

Heat stroke can occur anytime a pet is left outside in hot weather, especially without adequate shade and water source. It is also a reality when pets are exercised in hot weather,  (even activity that patient may normally perform), or when left in a car regardless of the temperature outside.  Other predisposing factors that may increase the risk of developing heat stroke in an otherwise normal situation include being classified as brachycephalic breed- short nosed breeds have inefficient panting and cooling ability, obesity, underlying disease conditions.

Our furry pets have a heavy coat that they can’t take off; they are not able to sweat and they rely on panting to cool themselves.  When a pet begins to get over-heated, they make more heat as they pant and this causes their body temperature to rise even further.

HEAT STROKE IS ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE! Consider leaving pets at home(indoors, crated, secured, away from large windows or direct sunlight with fresh water at all times) or having a friend/family member check on pet during the day. Boarding or day care are good options rather than leaving pets outdoors.

If signs of heat stroke/exhaustion are noted:

1. First remove pet from the situation

2. Cool them down with cool water (soaked towels)- DO NOT submerse in an ice bath

***Too rapid of cooling can be just at detrimental and there may be a delay (~24-48 hrs) in life-threatening complications from the previously elevated temperature (organ failure, bleeding disorders)

3. Offer shade +/- fan or a/c

4. Offer water (if no vomiting and holding up head)

5. Take immediately to a veterinarian (cool along the way)- this provides the best chance of survival if immediate veterinary care is sought- drive to a vet hospital in a car with A/C.  If able, obtain a rectal temperature and record it for the veterinarians benefit.


DO NOT: overcool the pet

DO NOT: force water in their mouth

DO NOT: leave them unattended or wait at home to see if the temperature drops

DO NOT: Think that just because the pet seems better after cooling that it is out of danger, it is best to be assessed by a veterinarian regardless of changes in your pets demeanor. Complications of heat stroke can appear even days later.


Outside Temp (F) /    Inside Car Temp (F)

70           /    100

80           /    120

90           /    140

Never leave a pet alone in a car (whether it is hot or cold outside)

If you find a dog left in a car- stay cool, calm and collected, try to find the owner, go in to the store and ask management to announce over the PA, or call local authorities for further directions.


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