How to prevent heat stroke and keep your pets cool!

  By: Tanya Firmage
       Director, Animal Centres and Community Programming, Animal Welfare
       Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

  July 12, 2016

Summertime is a great time for pets - the sun is out, they have more time outside, and they get to go for longer walks.

However, pets can get overheated quickly. Imagine how hot you get during the summer months… now add a fur coat on top of that! Just like people, pets can experience heatstroke when they get overheated. As a pet owner, it's important to be able to tell whether your pet is too hot. Here are some signs of heat stroke to help you out:

Signs of heat stroke

  • Heavy panting (or sudden stopping of panting)
  • Dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lack of coordination, staggering
  • Weakness or muscle tremors
  • Convulsions or vomiting
  • Seizures

If heat stroke is suspected, prompt veterinary medical attention is crucial. In the meantime, immediately wet your pet's feet and around their head with lukewarm or cool water (NOT cold water). Bring your pet into the shade and offer them drinking water or ice cubes to lick.

Even after your pet has cooled down and seems ok, internal organs such as kidneys, liver, and brain, can be affected. Please visit your veterinarian immediately.

Combatting the heat!

As pet owners, it's important to continue to think of ways to keep our pets cool during the summer. Here are a few great tips for keeping your pets cool:

Access to water: With the heat, your pets need water even more than normal. Making sure your pet always has access to cool water is an important step to keeping your pet cool and hydrated.

Ice: Give your pet ice to chew on; it's a nice treat and will help keep your pet cool! For extra fun, you can freeze one of their favourite toys or treats in a bowl of water, which will give them extra incentive to lick!

Time for a clipping!: Every breed has different grooming needs! Some breeds need a groom heading into the summer, while other breeds have fur that act as insulation against the heat. If you want your pet to get a cut this summer, go to a professional groomer who will know what each particular breed needs. Regardless of the breed, get your pet's coat trimmed, NOT shaved! A fur or hair coat acts as a natural barrier against your pet's skin becoming sun burnt!

Water & shade = perfect combo: If your dog will be spending time outside in a backyard of sorts, make sure there's lots of water and shade available. Legally, all pet owners must provide adequate and appropriate shelter for their pets, year-round. Learn more about the Ideal Doghouse here.

Water play: There are lots of options for this one! Run your dog through your sprinkler, gently spray your dog down with a hose, or provide a small kiddie pool for your dog to dip their feet in, to name a few.

Considerate walks: If it's an especially hot day, keep your walks short or make sure you're walking in the shade and off the pavement. Dogs don't have shoes like we do, so walking their paws on cement that has been baking in the sunlight can be very painful for them. Choose a park or grass instead!

Leave your pet at home when running an errand: Did you know? On a sunny day, within 10 minutes, the inside of a car can be at least 10 degrees Celsius higher than the temperature outside. Pets can't combat heat like humans can; they can only sweat through their paw pads and pant to try to cool themselves. Please keep your pets at home when running an errand. If they need to come with you, have someone stay in the car with your pet with the air conditioning on.

#NoHotPets is a campaign to try to reduce the number of pets left in vehicles during the summer months. Pets are still being left in cars at an alarming rate. To read more and to take the pledge, check out the #NoHotPets campaign at