Heat Stroke in Dogs, Cats & Birds

How to prevent heat stroke in dogs, cats and birds. Recognizing heat stroke symptoms in animals. How to treat feline, canine and avian heat stress. Lifesaving information about pets and heatstroke.

Hot Dog

Hot Dog
Jessica Florence
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Can Dogs Get Heat Stroke?

Not everyone knows this, but dogs are MORE vulnerable to heat stress injury than human beings. This is because a dog's body cools itself differently than yours does.

Dogs do not sweat. They cool themselves through their respiratory system by panting.

Add to this the fact that they wear permanent fur coats and you can see how easily canine heat stroke can develop.

What Does Dog Heat Stroke Look Like?

Your dog will tell you he/she is too hot in the following ways:

  1. The dog may pant more than it normally does.

  2. The dog may seem confused. It may exhibit strange behavior or fail to respond to its own name when called.

  3. Feel the dog's chest. A heat stressed dog's heart will beat quickly.

  4. The dog may vomit or appear to be struggling to breathe.

If you see any of these signs on a hot day, you must act quickly. Untreated heat stroke symptoms in dogs can lead to coma or even death.

Treating Heat Stroke in Dogs

Yellow Labrador Retriever Running Through Water

Yellow Labrador Retriever Running Through Water
Gary Hubbell
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To remedy heat stroke in dogs, you've got to reduce the dog's body temperature quickly. Here's how:

  • Move the dog to a cooler area. The shade if you are outside and cannot go indoors. An air conditioned room with a fan is a better choice if it is available.

  • Give the dog some fresh, clean water. Cool but not ice cold. Do not allow the dog to drink too much too quickly or it may vomit the fluids right back up.

  • Wet the dog down with cool--not cold--water. You can use a garden hose.

    If you are inside, put the dog into the shower.

  • Let the dog rest in an air conditioned room or on a cool surface with a fan blowing on it.

    A mutt we once had, liked to sprawl on our kitchen linoleum beneath a ceiling fan going full blast after returning from a summer stroll.

  • It is not a good idea to put a dog into an ice bath or to leave cold wet towels on their bodies as is sometimes done with humans. Their circulatory systems work somewhat differently than ours and doing these things can actually make heat stroke in dogs worse.

    Use a rectal thermometer to take the dog's temperature.

    Normal body temperature for a dog is about 101 degrees F. 105 degrees is indicative of heat stroke in dogs. If the dog's temp remains at 106 for long, organ damage or death may result.

    If, after performing all these actions, the dog's temperature remains above 103 degrees, call the vet.

    Even if the dog's temperature falls to normal, you will probably want to take your pet in to be checked out just for your own peace of mind.

    Preventing Dog Heat Stroke

    Hot Dawg

    Hot Dawg
    Scott ...
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    Knowing how to treat heat stoke in dogs is very well and good. But it is FAR better to prevent it from happening in the first place.

    Just as all humans are not equally susceptible to heat stress, neither are all canines. It may be helpful to know which dogs are at greatest risk:

  • Heat stroke in dogs is most common in breeds with short snouts like Pugs or Shar Peis who have a harder time breathing under hot, humid conditions.

  • Puppies and geriatric dogs who are more frail than the general canine population.

  • Overweight dogs.

  • Dogs who are ill when the heat hits or have recently undergone a surgical procedure.

  • Cold climate breeds and breeds with heavy coats are more at risk for canine heat stroke.

  • Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

    Dog, Cat, Bird in Car

    Dog, Cat, Bird in Car

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    The things you need to do to prevent heat stroke in pets apply to dogs, cats and birds alike.

    The single most important thing you can do to protect your pet from heat stress is avoid leaving the animal in a confined space that is too hot.

    This sounds obvious but we have all seen dogs left in hot cars.

    #1. Never leave your pet in a parked car when the ambient temperature is above 75 degrees F. The temperature inside the vehicle will climb into the danger zone more quickly than you realize.

    Even leaving a window down will not help enough.

    If you can't take the dog (or other pet) into the building you are entering, either drop it off at home and go back or ask someone to watch the dog (outside on a leash) while you run your errand.

    If your dog is friendly and well behaved, most people will be willing to do this for you. You can bring the dog sitter back a cold drink to thank them.

    #2. Do not leave your pet confined in a hot space (either indoors or out) at your home.

    Do not crate the animal in hot weather unless you can leave an air conditioner running. When it is warm, leave a fan running in a room that the pet has access to with a cool flooring surface. Leave a window open.

    When it is hot or you prefer not to leave a window open, leave the air conditioner on.

    #3. Be sure to leave plenty of water where the pet can get to it.

    #4. Never leave a dog in a hot yard with no access to shade. Try to walk the dog during the coolest hours of the day.

    Heat Stroke in Cats

    Paws Ice Cream

    Paws Ice Cream

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    The symptoms of cat heat stroke are nearly identical to the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs. Treatment and prevention of heat stroke in cats is also the same as for dogs.

    Cats cool themselves by panting and licking their fur (evaporation). Like dogs, they are more vulnerable to heat stress because they do not sweat.

    Normal feline body temperature ranges from 100.5-102.5 degrees F.

    A reading of 105 degrees F. or above on a rectal thermometer necessitates an immediate trip to the vet.

    Kittens, older cats and cats who have recently been ill are at greater risk as are felines with thicker coats.

    Bird Heat Stress

    Our yellow parakeet Sebstian.

    The leading cause of heat stroke in birds is the same as the leading cause of heat stroke in dogs: Being left in a hot car.

    A pet bird left outside can fly around (if its cage is large enough or if it is not caged) and cool itself. Like dogs and cats, birds do not sweat.

    The yellow parakeet in the photo above is our Sebastian. She lives in a flight cage. Sebastian sleeps indoors but spends the majority of her time outside on our back porch where she enjoys raucous conversations with the wild birds our garden is designed to attract.

    We make sure her cage is in constant shade and check on her often when it is very hot.

    When Sebastian gets too hot, she retreats to the coconut hut that hangs in one corner of her cage. One of our other birds used to sleep in this hut. Sebastian only goes in there to remodel it with her beak.

    If I see her in there and she's not working on a remodeling project, I bring her indoors.

    If she doesn't complain, we know it was too hot outside for her comfort.

    Sebastian does not like to come inside before 5:00 p.m. for nothing! If we bring her in before she wants to come in, she will screech loud enough and long enough to compel us to wheel her back out.

    Some birds may extend their wings and pant when under heat stress. Others may become agitated.

    Being the type of bird who could start a fight in an empty cage, Sebastian becomes agitated in our air conditioned living room sans provocation, so this is not a sign we watch for.

    You know what is normal behavior for your pet. It is abnormal behavior that should concern you.

    A heat stressed bird may rock back and forth on its perch.


    Bring it into a cool room, spritz it with room temp water and turn a fan on. If the bird does not recover quickly, take it to the vet.

    Heat stroke can cause permanent brain damage or death in birds. Repeated heat stress makes your bird more vulnerable to bacterial infections, the primary cause of death among birds.

    Related Pages:

    Heat Stress Management Tips to Keep You Safe

    Heat Stroke Symptoms in Humans

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