Recognising Heatstroke in Cats and Dogs

As the days get warmer, you’ll want to take extra care your cat or dog stays cool and comfy. We share how to recognise and prevent heatstroke in your pet...

Now that we’re officially in summer, the days are set to get warmer, with January and February generally the warmest months of the year in New Zealand. While this may mean extended times on the beach or in the park, these long hot days can pose a threat to your cat or dog, even if you’ve done the responsible thing and left them safely at home.

Cats and dogs don’t sweat the same way as humans; instead, they pant or lick their fur to try and reduce their body heat. This makes it easier for them to overheat, particularly if they have limited control over their environment.

Identifying heatstroke in your cat or dog

Cats and dogs have similar symptoms when suffering from heatstroke and the signs include:

  • Restlessness
  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bright red tongue and gums
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors

They may also start vomiting, or suffer from diarrhoea, in severe cases.

How to prevent heatstroke in your dog or cat

Fortunately, heatstroke is entirely preventable. For the most part, this comes down to ensuring your cat or dog doesn’t get into a situation where they can overheat.

At home, make sure there’s a cool room they can escape to and that they always have access to plenty of cool drinking water. If they’re outdoor pets, again, make sure there are shady spots where they can escape the summer sun. Also, consider moving your dog’s kennel to a shaded area.

Outdoor dogs may also appreciate a shallow swimming pool where they can splash in the water to cool down.

Cats can move around outside more easily, so they are pretty good at finding a cool spot to escape the direct sun. However, make sure they still have access to clean, cool water outside.

And finally, don’t leave your pet in the car. While it’s great to take your dog with you to the beach or the park, don’t take them on trips to places where they may not be welcome, and you have to leave them in your car. That’s because indoor car temperatures can increase incredibly quickly when it’s sunny outside.

If you think your cat or dog has heatstroke

If your cat or dog is displaying symptoms of heatstroke, try and reduce their body temperature as much as possible straight away. Bring them into a cool room, turn on a fan or air conditioning unit, and provide them with plenty of cold water to drink.

You can even try and mist them with cool water from a clean spray bottle, get them to stand in a water bath, or wrap them in a cool wet towel for short periods.

Once you’ve lowered your pet’s temperature, take them to the vet for a check and to receive any further treatment that may be required. And, if you’re having trouble reducing your pet’s temperature, or they’re exhibiting more severe symptoms, take them to the vet straight away.