Baby, It’s Hot Out There! Protecting Your Pets From the Heat.

As summer temperatures rise, it's crucial to be aware of how the heat can impact our pets. Each year, the soaring temperatures put our furry friends at risk of heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heatstroke. Heat related illnesses have become so prevalent that the last Friday of May is dedicated to National Heat Awareness Day, which spotlights heat-induced medical emergencies in humans and pets. 

As the days get longer and hotter in the summer, pet owners must recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and take preventive measures to ensure their pets stay safe during the hottest months. In this blog, we’ll educate pet owners about the risks and signs associated with excessive heat and preventative measures to ensure every pet can avoid potentially fatal heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heatstroke. After all, no one wants to end a fun day outdoors with an emergency trip to the vet!

Why Pet Owners Need to Be Aware of Excessive Heat Risks

Unless you have an indoor cat that is content laying in the sun as it shines through your windows, most pets love being outside where they can run free and explore. This is especially true in the “dog days” of summer when snow, ice, and a cold breeze aren’t dampening their spirits as they try to enjoy Mother Nature.

Pets’ love of the outdoors often means their owners want to spoil them with plenty of time out in the sun. However, too much outdoor time in the heat can lead to overheating and serious medical complications with dire consequences.

What Is Heat Exhaustion in Dogs and Cats?

Overheating, or heat exhaustion, occurs when a pet’s temperature rises too much, and blood rushes to the tongue, gums, and membranes to help alleviate the excess heat. Overheating happens quickly, with pets unable to cool themselves to the point of a metabolic meltdown. According to the American Kennel Club, heat exhaustion is elevated to heatstroke when a dog’s internal temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat exhaustion in pets can lead to the following:

  • Sudden collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Brain damage
  • Heatstroke
  • Death

Cute fluffy cat enjoying air flow from fan on floor indoors. Summer heat

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Signs of overheating include:

  • Persistent panting
  • Labored breathing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Bright red membranes
  • Purple/gray mouth
  • Gasping for air
  • Thickened saliva
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to stand or falling over

When taking your pet on an outdoor adventure, the rule of thumb is to always have a quick exit strategy in case you see any signs of overheating. Always have a way to get your pet into a cooler environment quickly, such as a nearby car with air conditioning or staying close to home so they can immediately retreat from the sun and heat.

What to Do If Your Pet is Experiencing a Heat-Related Emergency

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, take immediate action:

  1. Move to a cooler area: Bring your pet indoors or to a shaded, cool environment.
  2. Cool your pet: Apply cool (not cold) water to their body, especially the head, neck, and chest. Use wet towels or a fan to aid in cooling.
  3. Provide water: Offer small amounts of cool water to drink, but do not force them to drink.
  4. Seek veterinary care: Contact your veterinarian immediately, as heat stroke can cause severe internal damage.

What Pets Are Most At Risk for Heat Exhaustion?

While all pets are susceptible to heat exhaustion, some are at higher risk:

  • Brachycephalic breeds: Dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers have short noses and struggle with effective respiration, making them more prone to overheating.
  • Long-haired breeds: Dogs with thick coats, such as Huskies and Malamutes, can overheat more quickly.
  • Senior pets: Older pets may have underlying health issues that make them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
  • Pets with existing health conditions: Animals with respiratory, cardiovascular, or weight issues are also at greater risk.

These emergencies are easily avoidable by being cautious and limiting your pet’s activities and time in the heat. Read on to learn a few of our top heat stroke prevention strategies for both dogs and cats.


Preventing heat exhaustion and heatstroke is critical to your pet’s health and longevity; therefore, all pet owners should be knowledgeable about preventative measures. These tips are especially relevant for those who own long-haired or brachycephalic dog breeds or senior dogs and cats.


Banner of a happy panting dog in summer in the meadow grass on sky background.

Avoided heat exhaustion and heatstroke in pets in the following ways:

  • Make sure fresh water and shade are readily available when outside in the heat for any length of time
  • Research cooling products such as cooling mats and vests to bring down your pet’s body temperature quickly
  • Never leave your pet in the car, regardless of season or access to fresh air
  • Bring your pets outside in short increments only
  • Avoid strenuous outside activity during hot months, and opt for calm walks and lounging instead
  • Groom your dog more frequently and consider shorter hair in the summer months to avoid extra insulation
  • If your home doesn’t have central air conditioning, invest in window air conditioners or set up fans around the home
  • Avoid hot asphalt surfaces when taking your dog outside, which radiate heat and cause your pet’s temperature to rise more rapidly

The AVMA offers additional insight into keeping your pets cool during the hot summer months.

Limiting time outside and keeping a close eye on your pets when temperatures rise are key factors in avoiding heat exhaustion and heatstroke. If any warning signs are noticed, take quick action to get your pet cooled down and contact your veterinarian to see if their symptoms warrant a visit.

Don't have a vet in your area yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian.

Contributing DVM