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Heat Stroke: Is my dog at risk?

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Updated: January 28, 2020

Along with the outside temperatures and humidity and the situations that people may put and leave their pets in – hot cars, exercise on hot days, etc. – there are several other pet-specific “predisposing” factors that can increase a pet’s risk for suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If your cat or dog has one (or several) of the characteristics or conditions listed below they may be at increased risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses. Please take extra precautions on warm and humid days and be sure to speak with and work with your pet’s veterinary team to best manage your pet’s risk of suffering heat stroke.

Heat stroke can affect ALL cats and dogs:

  1. However, some cats and dogs because of age, breed, weight, or other medical conditions are more at risk.
  2. Work with your veterinarian to manage or treat any conditions that increase your pet’s risk for heat stroke.

  • Young or Advanced Age: Because of their decreased ability to regulate their own body temperature, very young and very old cats and dogs are at increased risk of developing heat stroke.

  • Excessive Weight and Body Condition: Pets who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop heat stroke because of the increased insulation that the fat cells confer, along with the increased heat such pets generate during even mild exercise. Speak with your veterinarian and check these body charts for dogs and for cats to determine their ideal body condition.

  • Brachycephalic Head Conformation: Because of the overall structure of their breathing (“respiratory”) system, brachycephalic (‘snub-nosed’) cats and dogs are very much at increased risk for suffering from heat stroke. At-risk dog breeds include Bulldogs (English, French, and American), Boxers, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and similar breeds – as well as snub-nosed mixes of these breeds. At risk cat breeds include Persian, Himalayan, British Shorthair, and Scottish Fold – as well as snub-nosed mixes of these breeds.

  • Existing Medical Conditions: Cats and dogs with arthritis or certain other orthopedic conditions are at increased risk for developing heat-related illness. Similarly, dogs with respiratory conditions such as collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome are at grave risk of developing heat stroke. In addition, cats and dogs with certain heart conditions and dogs with myasthenia gravis or Addison’s Disease, are also at higher risk.

  • History of Heat Illness: Cats and dogs who have previously suffered through and survived a bout of heat stroke are at increased risk of suffering from a future case of heat stroke due to a change in their hypothalamic temperature set point resulting from their initial heat injury.

  • Coat Characteristics: Cats and dogs with thicker, darker-colored coats are at increased risk of suffering from heat stroke compared to pets with thinner, lighter-colored coats due to the greater insulating and heat absorbing characteristics of the thicker, darker-colored coats.

Topics: Dogs, Safety, Cats, Heat Exhaustion, Summer, Heat Stress, Heat Stroke, Danger, Pets, Prevention, Brachycephalic, Persian, Bulldogs, Scottish Fold, French Bulldogs, Pekingese, Boxers, Himalayan, Shih Tzu, British Shorthair

Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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