Heatstroke and the traveling pet

Jodi Ziskin's picture

If your summer travel plans include taking your pet along on road trips, hikes or even walks through city centers, it is important to be aware that heatstroke is a real risk.

Cats and dogs both have a normal body temperature of between 100-102°F.  If their body’s core temperature rises to 105-106°F, they can face heat exhaustion. At 107°F, heatstroke may occur. This is a very serious condition that can lead to brain damage or even death.

For dogs, active play sessions or even long walks in the heat can bring on a rise in body temperature. Offering plenty of cool water to prevent dehydration is very important.

Cats can suffer from heatstroke by being in a room or car with the sun beating down for an extended time. Cats must have access to shade or a cooler area along with plenty of fresh water.

One of the reasons dogs and cats are so susceptible to heatstroke is that they do not sweat.  Instead, pets regulate body temperature by panting. Although they do have sweat glands on heir paw pads, very little heat escapes this route.


Signs of heatstroke include:

•    A pet that is panting, even though the temperature seems cool. Note: some cats will pant simply because they are nervous or stressed

•    Lethargy

•    Bright red gums

•    A pet that is warm to the touch or who becomes warm after only walking a short distance

A veterinarian friend of mine shared a story with me about a dog who was left in a garage without air conditioning all day. When a family member noticed him panting, he rushed him to the clinic. It was too late - the brain was to basically beginning to 'cook.'


Using common sense when traveling is key:

•    Always have air conditioning on in the car

•    If hiking or walking, take breaks in the shade and have plenty of water

•    Never leave a pet in the car - even if outside temperatures is only in the 70s, a car can quickly become an oven, heating up to 100 degrees or more (cracking the window open does not help)

•    Offer ice or ice chips to keep the body cool

•    Have a water spritzer handy on summer walks - keep spraying cool water onto your pet


Heatstroke is an emergency situation that requires veterinary care.  If you suspect heatstroke, immediately apply cook, wet towels or ice packs to your pet's body. For medium and large dogs, a bath of cool water is very helpful.

Then make your way to the veterinarian being sure your pet is cooled in the car with ice packs and the air conditioner turned on the highest setting.


Safe travels!




Jodi Ziskin, our Traveling with Pets Editor, is a Holistic Wellness Consultant for Animal Companions, specializing in nutrition and proactive health. She is a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant who also holds a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition. Through her company Holistic Jodi, LLC, Jodi makes house calls throughout South Florida, helping cats, dogs, birds and rabbits be as healthy and happy as possible.


She and her husband Zach live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with their two cats, Obi and Emma.

Please feel free to contact Jodi at holisticjodi[at]gmail.com or visit http://www.healthypetcoach.com/