We are open M, T, W, F
and 2:30pm-6pm

Thursday & Saturday 8am-noon

Doctor's hours are by appointment.

To make an appointment, please call

1120 Maricopa Hwy.
Ojai, CA 93023


Heat Stroke in Pets

Heat stroke is an all too common cause of death in pets. We must be particularly mindful of this during the hot summer months we experience here in Ojai.

Anytime the body temperature rises above normal, body functions are affected. If the body temperature rises high enough, damage occurs and often this damage is permanent. This danger of permanent damage exists even if the body temperature is later returned to normal.

Temperatures that reach 107-109 degrees F are commonly associated with seizures and brain damage. Unfortunately, approximately 50% of pets seriously affected by heat stroke can be expected to die.

Immediate and intensive emergency care is necessary to give the pet a chance to survive.

The body normally loses excess heat to the environment. If the outside temperatures are very cold, the body can lose too much warmth, and the body temperature can fall low enough to cause death. Likewise, if the outside temperature is too high, body temperature will rise too much and also cause death.

For dogs and cats, the primary way excess heat is lost from the body is by exhaling air through the nasal passages. Air breathed in is warmed by the nasal passages to make it the same temperature as the body. Air breathed out is the same temperature as the body and carries out heat with it. There is no way for your pet to cool off the air as it passes into the body through the nasal passages.

Dogs and cats with shortened noses (Pekingese, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Persian, etc.) have less nasal passage area, which can lead to more retention of body heat. They also tend to be more excitable, which can increase body heat. Both of these problems can result in increased susceptibility to excess environmental heat, which can lead to heat stroke.

What does excess environmental heat mean?

Basically, environmental heat refers to the heat around us. If the temperature around your pet is greater than your pets body temperature, then heat loss cannot occur. In fact, the outside temperature will contribute to raising the body temperature. There is no heat loss mechanism that successfully allows for heat loss from the body of dogs and cats if the outside temperature is greater than that of the body temperature. Remember, as we said before, there is no way for your pet to cool the air that he or she breathes in. That is why pets trapped in a hot environment (like a car) will eventually die from the heat.

When you find yourself in a hot environment, your body will sweat, and through the evaporation of the sweat on your skin, heat from your body is lost to the environment. But, there are very few sweat glands in the skin of dogs and cats to help with heat loss. Some heat can be lost through the skin directly, but that heat loss will be affected by how much fat is in the skin. An overheated body will direct more blood toward blood vessels in the skin. The closer the blood is to the skin surface, the easier it is for the heat from the blood to be lost outside. But since fat is actually a good insulator, overweight dogs and cats will have a much harder time losing excess heat through the skin.

Don't Leave Your Pet in a Car!

Dogs, cats and other small pets like rabbits are all especially sensitive to environmental heat and rely heavily on air movement to increase their chances for heat loss. Pets trapped in a car on a warm day can develop life-threatening problems in a very short time. The results of one study were particularly disturbing. The temperature inside a car was cooled to 75 degrees. It was a warm day and within minutes the temperature rose to more than 110 degrees! Any animal left inside that car would have surely suffered from heat stroke and likely died. By the way, the same is true if an animal is left in a warm room without adequate air flow. Remember, dogs and cats normal temperatures are from 100 – 101.5 degrees. If the temperature around them exceeds that level, or they are exercising and raising their body temperature in very warm weather, they are at risk for heat stroke.

What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?

Different animals may respond differently, but in most cases the initial sign would be excessive panting. The mucus membranes (you can look at your pet’s gums) may become dark red in color. This happens because the body dilates skin blood vessels to try and release heat. There will be a rapid heart rate, dizziness and confusion, poor response to stimuli, possible vomiting and diarrhea. Left untreated, it would progress to coma and death.

What Can I Do to Prevent Heat Stroke?

We're glad you asked! It's really quite simple.

• NEVER leave your pet in a car even on a moderately warm day. Not for any length of time.

• Provide plenty of shade/shelter, in a well ventilated area on warm days.

• If your pet is inside, make sure the room is well ventilated.

• ALWAYS provide fresh, cool water, whether your pet is inside or out. Make sure outside water bowls are in shaded areas.

• Restrict exercise on warm days. When on walks, ALWAYS bring enough water along for you and your pet.

• Remember, overweight pets are more susceptible to heat stroke. So keep your pets fit and trim. If you have an overweight pet (most are) be especially careful about exercise if the temperatures are high.

• In the event of heat stroke, seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY! Do not place your pet in an ice water bath or use rubbing alcohol at home.

We’re not saying that your pets should be locked in an air-conditioned room all summer. But being aware of the possible summer heat related problems may just help you to save your pet’s life.


Allergies Arthritis Blood Pressure
Canine Reproduction Corticosteroids Dental Disease
Feline Hyperthyroidism Feline Reproduction Fleas & Flea Control
Heart Disease Heartworm Heat Stroke
Immunizations for Dogs Immunizations for Cats Intestinal Parasites
Kidney Disease Liver Disease Neutering Surgery
Obesity Poison Prevention Spaying Surgery