Heat Stroke: How to Protect Your Pet

Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets It’s that time of year again! As the temperatures climb here in Austin, so does the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke in our canine friends. We all want to get out there and enjoy that nice weather, and even when it gets hotter -- we don’t want to abandon our exercise routines we’ve worked so hard to stick to. However, it is important to be very careful with your dog during these warmer months.

Causes and Risk Factors

Your dog doesn’t tolerate heat in the same way you do. While we perspire across our entire bodies, dogs primarily cool themselves through panting. When we begin to feel faint as humans, it signals us to slow down. Our dogs, however, are often so excited to follow and keep up with us, that they might not realize when they're feeling a little run down from the heat.

A dog can get overheated even when the ambient temperature is below their body temperature, simply from of all the heat they generate through activity -- the hotter it is, the higher the risk. Even when a dog is not very active, very high temperatures in cars left off or simply in the backyard can sometimes cause major problems. By the way, it is also important to be aware of the temperature of the ground when you are out with your dog, as they can burn their pads on hot pavement or sidewalks.

Other than ambient temperature, the single most important risk factor for heat stroke is breed and conformation. If your pet is brachycephalic (a breed with a short nose or flat face) such as a pug or a boxer, you need to be very cautious and only let your pet exercise outside when it is cool, such as early in the morning. Of all the pets I’ve treated for heat stroke, the vast majority of them have been these breeds.

Finally, obese and overweight pets are also at increased risk for heat stroke. All that extra insulation makes it tougher to get rid of heat, and fat can also constrict the respiratory system making it less efficient. This directly impacts a dog's ability to exchange heat by panting.

Signs of a Problem

The signs of heat stroke include a pet who is beginning to pant more than usual or harder than usual, and will continue to pant, even when calmed down.  As the problem progresses, a dog experiencing heat stroke will become less active and be reluctant to walk or move. Eventually these pets become completely unable to walk or even stand -- they will just pant.

As their body temperatures warm, pets suffering from heat stroke will go through a cascade of internal events. All of the enzymes and organs in your pet’s body are designed to operate at a particular temperature and pH.  When that temperature is exceeded in heat stroke, your pet will undergo multiple organ failure and severe brain damage. Ultimately this can lead quite quickly to death.  Even if a pet survives severe heat stroke, permanent brain or organ damage can occur.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke

Avoid walking or especially running your dog during the heat of day in the summer, late spring, and early autumn. When you do go on walks, bring along water for your pet. Because pets cool off by panting, they lose a large amount of water and moisture and need to stay hydrated. There are many fold-able dog dishes that can fit in your pocket that are commercially available.

Of course, you should be extra careful about taking out short-nosed breeds at any time other than the very early morning. Even then, pay very close attention to how your pet is doing. I can't stress enough just how fragile the respiratory tracts of boxers, pugs, French bulldogs, English bulldogs, and other short-nosed breeds are.

Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Exercise is obviously very important, but don't forget that the majority of weight-control is going to come in the form of dietary management. At a healthy weight, you pet will be able to cool off more efficiently.

Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car. Even with the windows cracked, these vehicles can easily exceed the atmospheric temperature by a great deal. It is amazing how quickly this can cause severe and often fatal heat stroke in pets (and humans, for that matter).

Finally, always be on the lookout for the early signs of heat stroke so you can stop it before it becomes life-threatening. If you notice your pet slowing down or panting more than usual, take a break in the shade. Offer your pet some water and give her a rest.  Once she has calmed down and gotten her energy back and her panting under control, head back home.

Exercise is great for your pet's health and your own.  Don't give up on it all together, but be smart about it and your canine friend will thank you.



Preventing Heat Stroke in Pets

About the Author:

Casey Hill, DVM, cVMA

Dr. Casey Hill, the Doorstep Vet, graduated from veterinary school in 2010 at Virginia Tech. Upon graduation she moved to Austin with her husband, Christian, and two cats. Since that time she has been working to keep the pets of Austin happy and healthy. She has worked as a traditional cat, dog, and exotics practitioner but now concentrates on her housecall work with Doorstep Vet. Dr. Hill's acupuncture training was completed in 2016 in Fort Collins, Colorado and she is excited to offer this valuable modality to her housecall patients. You can also follow her on Facebook!


My online pet photography class has launched!

Yay! My online pet photography class is now live and available to pet-loving public. I love teaching and when I was contacted by the folks at Craftsy.com in partnership with the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops I just couldn't pass this opportunity up. Craftsy has classes in all sorts genres–cake baking, sewing, painting, photography and more. I've really enjoyed the classes I've taken with them and can't wait to participate in more. I prioritize connecting with people and teaching is one way I get to do that... I wouldn't put myself on the other side of the camera (a video camera nonetheless, yikes!) unless I felt strongly about the value of the final product.  Thanks to the incredible production team in Denver, CO. as they worked their butts off and were super committed to making a strong video. We all worked HARD and put a lot of of thought into what would bring the most impact into your lives, so here you go!  The class has 7 video lessons with anytime, anywhere access, class materials, hours of close-up instruction and I get to answers questions and review student images via their virtual classroom.


Thank you for continuing to be part of my community as I continue to pursue projects that are near to my heart. I've had a busy few months working on this project and also just got back from teaching pet photography (my 5th season!) at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops– always a true honor to be part of that world.

I invite you to join me in the classroom. Here is a $10 off coupon link for to my class...  Here's a link to the trailer for the class!


More detailed description about the class and what to expect...

In this class, you'll learn how to pose your subjects, work with pets of all colors, and incorporate adults and children into your shoots. To begin, find out how to build your camera kit, scout the perfect location and pose your furry subjects with ease. And remember, you can watch each of these lessons at your own pace and return to techniques as many times as you wish, since this class is yours forever. So, take your time, have fun and learn when it's convenient for you.

Pet Portraits: A deeper understanding of composition, light and color will help you to shoot visually striking photographs. So, in this lesson, explore the essentials of composition, and find out how to frame your shots for impact and allure. Plus, I'll share tried–and–true tips for harnessing light and using color to make your images stand out.

Proper Exposure: In our next lesson, we throw out the idea that some animals are harder to photograph than others. Find out how to achieve the proper exposure every time, whether shooting a black lab or a white poodle, and learn insider techniques for adjusting ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Then, discover how to capture light– and dark–colored pets with tricky contrasting backgrounds. Great cat photos:

Cats: The cat's out of the bag — and successfully into your photo — in our next lesson. Find out how to work with feline subjects using a few simple tricks for grabbing their attention. Then, explore creative new ways to capture each cat's personality purrr–fectly. I'll even show you several ways to use window light for eye–catching images.

People and Pets: Once you've become comfortable with the essentials of photographing pets, we'll add a new element to your shots: humans! I'll share step–by–step instruction for composing authentic, natural–looking portraits of people with their furry friends. Plus, from posing to playing, find out how to capture beautiful, meaningful moments with every shot.

Adults are one thing, but photographing children with their pets is a totally different experience. Up next, discover posing techniques for both older and younger children. I'll show you how to capture subjects that are on the move, and we'll shoot in open shade, for soft, lovely results.

Lifelines project exhibit in Austin's City Hall- Portraits of the Homeless and their beloved pets

Upcoming exhibit of photographic portraits of the homeless and their pets at Austin's City Hall April 15-29th 2013. Opening reception held Friday, April 19th 5:30-8pm.

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Lifelines Project announced: Photography of the homeless and their pets, Austin, TX

Lifelines is a project dedicated to honoring the bond between people and their pets. This multi-media exploration documents the unique lifestyle shared by people without shelter and the animals they rely on for companionship, protection, and in some cases, their emotional and psychological well-being.

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Why am I a photographer? {Children and Pet Photographer, Austin, TX and Santa Fe, NM}

Being a photographer isn't much of a choice for me. Photography picked ME. (Kind of like all of my adopted dogs and cats did). I fell in love with photography for the magic of it–for the many possibilities to create and connect through my view finder. While the format of photography has changed dramatically from my days of rolling film onto reels, the magic hasn't changed a bit. Sure, owning a business has its challenges, but I can't really imagine not creating photographs. As a result of my profession I get to play and interact with incredible children and animals and meet amazing people–even make some new friends. Through that process I have the opportunity to create images that allow my clients to linger in the present moment just a little bit longer–as their new baby coos and drools, as they hold on extra tightly to one another and while their pets gaze longingly into their eyes... this is the magic. Time certainly doesn't stand still, but artful photographs can certainly help it pause just a little; help us to spend a moment or two reminiscing and feel warm and fuzzy. (For the record, I'm not ashamed of being a warm and fuzzy photographer.) As I work hard to photograph and produce the final artwork for all of my unique clients this holiday season I am most definitley thankful to be part of this magical art form. The photographs I am sharing today are from a recent portrait session with a dear family in Santa Fe. I loved spending time with them at a park nearby their home as well as capturing images of their beloved pets at their home.

Norah Levine is an Austin based children portrait photographer and pet photographer. She photographs in homes and on location. She also travels to Santa Fe, New Mexico frequently for sessions. Please view her website for more details www.norahlevinephotography.com

This Cat's Meow {Pet photographer, Austin, TX}

I was recently asked to photograph Molly— a stunningly beautiful white cat, for the 2012 Austin Humane Society Alumni Calendar. Molly was adopted from the Austin Humane Society by her owners who absolutely adore her. This cat is not only exquisite to gaze upon and photograph with her gorgeous white coat and her multi-colored eyes, but also has a very sweet demeanor. I photographed Molly at her home in Austin and upon entering the door I immediately noticed the gorgeous dining room table and luscious green painted walls. The light was soft and subtle and I loved the way the green of the background accentuated her greenish-yellow eye. I've been a professional pet photographer for several years now. The opportunities for commissioned photographs of cats have been fewer than dogs for some reason. I love the different challenges that arise when working with cats, as well as having the chance to bond with these unique animals. I adore cats (I have three!) and appreciated being asked to photograph Molly.

I extend much gratitude to the Austin Humane Society for their tremendous support for the animals and the community here in Austin and beyond. Please support THEM by purchasing 2012 calendars!

Norah Levine is an Austin based children portrait photographer and pet photographer. She photographs in homes and on location. She also travels to Santa Fe, New Mexico frequently for sessions. Please view her website for more details www.norahlevinephotography.com