Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets


By Gail Carlson

Guest Columnist


Do you know the signs of heat stroke in pets? My pets are part of my family. This also is true for so many pet parents I work with. We spend a great deal our hard-earned income keeping our pets—who give us so much unconditional love—happy and healthy.

We can help our pets also when the heat is extreme by doing things to actively prevent heat strokes. The temperatures have been outrageous of late, so for dogs like Gismo and Rocky, for example, the chances of experiencing heat-related problems are high. As the scorching days go on and on, pet owners need to be aware of what steps should be taken if a pet is suffering from heat stroke.

High body temperatures and stress can cause a pet to go into heat stroke. Heat stroke most often occurs when pets are left in confined spaces with little or no ventilation during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.

The signs of heat stroke can include uncontrollable panting, foaming at the mouth, depression, lethargy, agitation, vomiting, loss of consciousness, tongue and gums that turn from bright red to blue to gray, and a capillary refill time of more than two seconds.

The professional pet sitter organization I am affiliated with, Pet Sitter International (PSI), suggests the following five survival actions if a pet is suffering from heat stroke.


  1. Restrain the pet. Muzzle only if absolutely necessary. If muzzled, cool the pet because it will not be able to pant and cool itself.
  2. Bathe or hose the pet with cool (not cold) water until its temperature subsides. You can also place the pet in a cool, well-ventilated space and wrap it in a wet, cold sheet or towel.
  3. Prepare to treat for shock. This includes placing the pet on its side with head extended. If the pet isn’t muzzled, open its mouth and cautiously pull the tongue past its teeth with your fingers. Keep the tongue extended to keep the airway open. Slightly elevate the pet’s hindquarters.
  4. Monitor the pet’s temperature with a digital thermometer.
  5. Transport to a veterinarian or emergency animal hospital.


I believe that our pets help us to live more fulfilling lives. Can you imagine your life without them? Do you want to keep them alive and healthy for as long as you can? Please give them some extra TLC during these heat waves to prevent heat stroke. Be aware of your neighbors’ pets too, especially if they are left outside. You just may save the life of a precious animal that will thank you tenfold for your kindness.


Gail Carlson, or Auntie Gail, has had a pet-sitting and dog-walking service in the foothills area since 2008. She can be reached at

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