• Northern Illawarra Veterinary Hospital

Heat Stress - Causes,Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Updated: May 20, 2020

As temperatures soar in summer heat stress is very real danger for pets.

Veterinary hospitals often see a large increase in the number of cats and dogs requiring treatment for heat during the warmer months.

However many pet owners don't realise that heat stress can occur anytime including when the weather is mild.

What is heat stress?

Heat stress (or heat stroke) - is essentially hyperthermia. or an elevated core body temperature above normal values resulting in heat injury to tissues.

It occurs when heat generation exceeds the body's ability to lose heat.

Heat stress is a medical emergency that can result in organ failure and death.

What causes heat stress?

- a hot/warm humid environment with poor ventilation

- inadequate shade

- inadequate drinking water

- Excessive exercise (particular in warm weather)

Who is Susceptible to heat stress?

Any pet is susceptible to heat stress when conditions are not favourable.

However certain other factors can put particular pets at greater risk. These include

- Brachycephalic (or flat face) breeds such as pugs, french bulldogs, bulldogs, himalayans and persians amongst others

- obesity

- the very old or very young

- respiratory disease

- excessive exercise

- cardiovascular disease

- neurological conditions

- long/thick hair or coat

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stress

Your pet may have just one symptom/sign or numerous. The following is list of symptoms you should look out for

-excessive panting

-drooling or salivating

- increased heart rate

- agitation

- vomiting and or diarrhea

- respiratory distress

- very red mucous membranes

- lethargy, weakness

- confusion

- muscle tremors or seizures

- collapse

- little to no urination

- coma

What to do if your pet is showing signs of heat stress

Heat stress is a medical emergency however some initial first aid at home may assist in reducing the pets body temperature.

- immediately remove your pet from the hot environment

- wet your pet down with cool or tepid water (don't use ice water as it may worsen the problem)

-place your pet in front of a fan to maximise heat loss

- take your vet to the closest veterinarian immediately

Preventing Heat Stress

Make enjoying summer safely easy by following some fairly simple rules to prevent heat stress.

-ensure your pet has a cool well ventilated area, this is very important as many pets lose via panting (evaporative cooling) which relies on good airflow

- outdoor pets must have access to shade during the course of the entire day

- pets should always have free access to fresh drinking water. Preferably more than one source in case one should be knocked or spilled over

- never leave pets in cars. Temperatures inside cars increase rapidly even when the outside temperature seems relatively mild

- avoid exercising in hot weather

- know and watch out for signs of heat stress the earlier it is treated the better.