Recognizing and Preventing Heatstroke in Animals

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book
An illustration of a car in front of a supermarket highlighting the risks of heatstroke in animals.

Summer heat is still going strong, so let’s talk about a condition that many pets must deal with around this time of the year. Heatstroke in animals is a health hazard that we’ve touched on before. This time we’ll look into the causes of this overheating, with an emphasis on preventative measures.

Pet owners and transporters alike might find this information useful. After all, keeping an animal safe, healthy and comfortable should always be a team effort. If you need help finding products that prevent dehydration and overheating, we’ve gathered our favorite dog summer accessories.

What is Heatstroke?

High body temperature can be caused by various factors. Fever, for example, is a well-known symptom of inflammation. But sometimes, temperatures keep going up and up without an obvious underlining issue. The body’s heat-dissipating systems become unable to deal with the environmental conditions, causing a whole series of malfunctions.

This results in what’s commonly known as heatstroke — a state of persistently elevated temperature that the body is unable to regulate.

If left unmanaged, heatstroke can have serious consequences for animals and humans alike. These vary from fainting spells to organ failure and can even result in death. Fortunately, this issue is relatively easy to address before it escalates and even easier to prevent.

Animals and Excess Heat

One of the few physical advantages humans have over animals is our ability to dissipate excess heat. Cats, dogs and the rest of our furry friends have a harder time doing this. While we sweat through our skin, they must rely on their paws, which are much less efficient. Panting helps but comes with its own set of problems.

Most pet owners are aware of the fact that certain dog breeds are especially prone to heat exhaustion. Bulldogs, pugs and other brachycephalic (short-nosed) animals often find their airways obstructed. These respiratory problems make panting more difficult, causing heat to dissipate more slowly and eventually resulting in heatstroke.

It’s less well known that many feline breeds suffer from the same issue. Short-snouted cats such as the Persian or the Himalayan are also at an elevated risk of heatstroke.

All this is not to say that owners of other pet breeds can discount the danger posed by overheating. Almost any animal can struggle to regulate body temperature. Very young, very old or overweight cats and dogs of any breed require special attention.

Recognizing the Signs

When heatstroke does occur, it’s important to determine how serious the situation is. This helps us decide which steps to take immediately and how best to involve the veterinarian.

Here’s a short list of symptoms associated with heatstroke in animals:

  • Excessive panting/hyperventilation: Compare to the animal’s usual breathing rate
  • Elevated pulse/heartbeat: Above 100 bpm for large dogs, 140 for small dogs, 220 for cats
  • Elevated body temperature: Above 103 degrees Fahrenheit for most cats and dogs
  • Anxiousness: The pet might pace nervously for no apparent reason
  • Listlessness: On the other hand, it may exhibit lethargic and unresponsive behavior instead
  • Dry, dark gums: Possibly indicative of acute dehydration
  • Vomiting or seizures: Possibly indicative of acute heat stress

Whenever these symptoms occur, take steps immediately to either preempt heatstroke or minimize its impact. Bring the pets into a cool, shaded environment and offer fresh water. If they refuse to drink or their condition deteriorates, wrap them in wet towels and find the nearest vet. See below for further details on ways to prevent and/or treat heatstroke.

Also, keep in mind that most of the symptoms outlined above vary in intensity over time. Only by monitoring the pet closely can we ascertain how well they’re handling the heat.

Heatstroke Prevention Tips

While it’s essential to be able to recognize the signs of heatstroke and react accordingly, it’s just as important to take steps toward preventing it. By following these simple guidelines, any pet owner or transporter can minimize the chances of overheating.

First off, reduce the animals’ exposure to sunlight. This advice can be difficult to follow, but try to keep to the shade when taking them out for a walk. If possible, keep them indoors or otherwise sheltered when the sun is at its zenith.

Hot asphalt warning sign

Keep pets supplied with plenty of fresh, cool water at all times. Make sure that drinking water isn’t too cold, though. Many (but not all!) animals also enjoy being gently sprayed with a few droplets. Wiping them down with a cool, wet towel can sometimes ease the pressure as well.

On the other hand, too much moisture can add to the problem – try to minimize humidity in the air. This is easiest to achieve by keeping the animals in a well-ventilated environment, using fans as required.

And finally, the big one again: do not leave pets alone inside a car! No, not even for a little while. With the A/C off, the interior of a vehicle can heat up much quicker than you’d imagine. Here’s a helpful video illustrating exactly that:

35 thoughts on “Recognizing and Preventing Heatstroke in Animals

  1. Great information hopefully more people watch for signs, it can happen very quickly.

  2. Understood and alway helpful reminders.
    I have “easy start” in my car. This allows me to lock the doors and start my car allowing the air or heat to run. This works very well for “quick” bathroom breaks.

  3. Is there more info available for making quick bathroom breaks that I just haven’t seen yet? Seems very iffy. Leaving the car running with the a/c on makes sense, but also opens you up for car theft, which of course would include your pet cargo! I’m not on the road yet (still waiting for USDA paperwork) but the summer heat has me stumped!!

    1. Get a second door key and use it to lock your doors while keeping the engine running. I have one attached to my gas cap inside my gas door so I can never be locked out.

      1. I would worry about someone seeing that and maybe following.. just never know what people will do these days ! And that won’t work if you have to open your gas door from inside your vehicle or if you have a gas key which is on your keys which are locked in your car ! If you have 2 key fobs for your car, put one on a wristlet key chain and then you can leave vehicle running and can be locked and unlocked with the fob on your wrist. Or if you have to….take the animal ..if restroom with you..even in travel centers….Would not leave in vehicle. They might say something about it,. But better than leaving them in a hot car !!!

        1. It’s amazing how now a days people don’t think of keys as a way to unlock your car. ” I have a family member that the battery does in there fob. And they litaeraly did not know how they were going to get Navi into there car they were ready to call a lock Smith. When I told them that they still had the key to unlock the car. And this person here in this post says that the extra key is not the best ideal. But maybe a extra key fob now that the ticket. Haha , and the whole point of the conversation was making the car still have a/c while in the restroom.

    2. Not necessarily, you lock the car from the outside and park right at the front door of facility, it take no more then 5 minutes for a bathroom Break, but most of us don’t travel alone!!

    3. Why are u waiting on the USDA paperwork? You can still transport…I did. Maybe you have different things going on….just wondering?

  4. Thank you for the valuable tips I will definitely keep them in mind that the animals in distress

  5. Thank you for the information on heatstroke in animals. What a great reminder. People should also remember even though the AC is on if the pet is in direct sun through the window a burn or overly heated skin can occur. I once got a severe burn on my leg (wearing jeans) I was a passenger the AC on but the sun beat through the window. Miserable for about 3 days.

  6. Great read, protect or lovable pets their someone’s child you know

  7. Just remember that in the high way the temperature is 40 degrees hotter cause of the assfault

  8. Great information to have! I just wish more people would consider all of these before heading out with their animals!

    1. Hop to see a lot more information because we are just starting out and we love our pets

      1. Bring an extra waterproof ice chest with sponges inside. That ice is for nothing more than wiping down a dog who gets hot. Sometimes excitement can get a nervous dog overheated and you can just use the sponge on his face and his paws to calm him down.

  9. I’m just joining get familiar with this I’m exploring checking things if anyone can give me any advice it would help ty

  10. Recognizing the signs is very informative for myself personally and to hopefully make this a nice side gig.

  11. I’ve taken thousands of miles on road trips with my 3 border collies and now my forth, and heat is the number 1 factor I put into my decision making on when to drive when to stop etc…I want them to have a great experience and if it’s too hot I have to rethink my strategy! But we always make it to our destinations and we have amazing pics in the end!

  12. Never leave any animal inside your car! I have a codriver so this will never happen! Be safe and have a great summer

  13. So far, the process has been smooth – I haven’t been contacted by a possible transport person yet.

Comments are closed.