Hot Weather and Heat Stroke Warnings in Your Pets

Technically speaking it is still spring, but the temperature is already rising in the greater Philadelphia area. The warm weather means people are getting outside with their dogs more and letting their cats play in the garden, and that’s great. Exercise is wonderful for cats and dogs, especially outdoor exercise while supervised by their owner. With the nice weather and warmer temperatures comes increased risk of heat stroke in pets, a condition that could send you and your pet to an emergency care veterinarian in the Philadelphia area. Last summer, Philadelphia had a number of heat waves and heat wave warnings from the National Weather Service. After a warm winter and warm spring, this year is looking as if it will be just as hot if not hotter—and along with the humidity in our area, we’ll very likely have days with a heat index well over 100 degrees. Heat like that isn’t just uncomfortable—it’s dangerous, especially for your pets who can’t ask for water, and who rely on human assistance to get the shade and other heat relief they need.

Learning the signs of heat stroke will help you protect your pets, but first it’s good to understand exactly what heat stroke really is. Heat stroke is a condition that can happen to both humans and their pets. It’s caused by the body overheating due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and physical exertion. Dogs and cats are especially at risk as they can’t shed their furry coats when they start to feel warm.

That’s why when you’re outside with your pets—or when you let them back into the house—you should look for symptoms of heat stroke. Panting and excessive thirst, two of the most common symptoms, are difficult to isolate, so really be on the lookout for staggering, weakness, glazed eyes, lethargy, and signs of discomfort. More severe cases of heatstroke can cause vomiting or diarrhea, and animals may show signs of disorientation, lose consciousness, or have a seizure. These are all signs that your pet needs immediate care or even medical attention.

If you fear the worst, seek out an emergency care veterinarian in the Philadelphia area as quickly as possible. Heatstroke in pets can cause real and lasting damage to the heart, brain, and nervous system. There is also a risk of death.

If you feel your pet is just mildly overheated and it’s not an emergency situation, you can treat your pet in a few ways. The first step is, of course, to immediately get your pet out of the heat. Put them in a cool location, and then put on a fan to help them cool down their body. You can also help by placing cool (not cold) wet towels around the base of their neck, under their armpits, and under their body. Dogs can also be helped by bathing their earflaps and paws in cool water. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, of course—so please, contact a 24/7 vet for help if you think your pet needs it.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital that serves the Philadelphia area. Summer or winter, we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.