The high heat and humidity of North Carolina summers can hinder your daily routine with your pet. So much so that many pets may actually gain weight in the summer from the decrease in activity. It can be difficult to find a good time to walk or play outside when the temperature reaches 100 degrees outside.

The team of Veterinarians at Cumberland Animal Hospital cares about all pets. They encourage all pet owners to help their pets beat the summer heat by finding ways to keep them cool.


Heatstroke happens when normal body systems cannot keep the body’s temperature in a safe and normal range. Animals do not sweat or have efficient cooling systems like humans. Therefore, they easily get overheated. A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 104º to 106ºF) can recover within an hour if given timely first aid and veterinary care (normal body temperature is 100-102.5°F). The worst case – severe heatstroke (body temperature over 106ºF) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is required.


Signs of heat stress include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Red gums

A dog suffering from heatstroke will show several signs:

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting – sometimes with blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Coma

If you notice your pet having any of these symptoms, get them to a cool place immediately and call your veterinarian.


Remove the dog from the hot area immediately. It is important to lower your pet’s temperature prior to taking him to your veterinarian. Do so by wetting your pet thoroughly with cool water (not cold) and then using a fan. It is important to note that using very cold water can actually be counterproductive. Cooling too quickly and allowing the body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions.

The rectal temperature should be checked every 5 minutes. Once the body temperature is 103ºF, cooling measures should be stopped and the dog should then be dried and covered so as not to lose heat. No matter how well your pet appears, a check up with a veterinarian is imperative as soon as possible. Your pet needs to be examined to determine if dehydration or there are any other complications.
Allow free access to water if the dog can drink on his own. Do not try to force-feed cold water as the dog may inhale it or choke.


Once at the animal hospital, if you have not already, your veterinarian will lower your dog’s body temperature to a safe range. Your dog will be given fluids and, if needed – oxygen. Your pet will be monitored for respiratory distress, organ failure, shock, and other complications, and treated accordingly.


Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk of heat stress and heat stroke. These guidelines can help prevent serious problems:

For walking your pet, we recommend going early in the morning and using the 3-second rule. The 3-second rule is that if you can hold your bare hand or foot on the pavement for 3 seconds without being overheated, it is likely safe for your pet.

When outside for any activity, bring fresh water with you, and be sure to offer your pet many opportunities to rest.

Walking in shaded areas and trading asphalt or pavement for grass if possible can help decrease your pet’s risk of burning their paw pads.

Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.


The Cumberland Animal Hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina understands how important it is to keep our pets safe year-round. If you have questions or concerns about your pet travel plans, call us at 910-822-3337. Cumberland Animal Hospital’s veterinarians in Fayetteville, NC are always available to assist you. Call us to schedule an appointment or ask any questions.