With extended daylight and warm weather, the summer can be a great time for outdoor activities with your pet. However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of warm weather and heat stroke, a life-threatening condition caused by the elevation of a dog’s body temperature. Here’s what you need to know about heat stroke in dogs.
A dog’s fur is great protection against the cold but can be a problem in hot weather. This is because, unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat. They eliminate heat by panting (dogs do have some sweat glands in the foot-pads, but not enough to cool their body.) When panting isn’t enough, their body temperature rises. If they don’t have access to cool air – either because of high outside temperatures or a confined environment – they are at risk of overheating. This can be fatal for a dog if not corrected quickly. In general, any hot environment can cause heat stroke in dogs, but the most common cause is careless actions such as leaving a dog in a car on a hot day or forgetting to provide shade when a dog is kept outdoors.
Signs of heat stroke in dogs
The different signs of heat stroke in dogs include:
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Increased body temperature – above 39° C (103° F)
- Bright red tongue
- Thick, sticky saliva
- Changes in mental status
- Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
- Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
- Irregular heart beats
- Stoppage of the heart and breathing
As heatstroke progresses, it can cause coma, and even death.
If your dog gets heat stroke…
Remove him/her from the hot area immediately! Put your dog in the bath tub or run a cool (not ice cold) shower over your pet, covering the whole body (especially the back of the head and neck.) If your dog is still conscious, let him/her drink as much cold water as possible. Adding a bit of salt to the water will help the dog replace the minerals it lost through panting. If dog is unconscious, however, make sure no water enters the nose or mouth. After cooling down your dog, call your vet or an emergency clinic, and take your pet there as quickly and safely as possible. While transporting your pet to the vet, keep on lowering its temperature by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck. If possible, increase air movement around him with a fan. Be aware that very cold water can actually be counterproductive. Going from one extreme temperature to another can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. Keep the body temperature around 39° C and stop the cooling when the right temperature is reached. Even if your dog appears to be recovering, you should still bring him/her to the vet, since he may be dehydrated or have other complications.
How to prevent heat stroke in dogs
There are some simple, common-sense steps you can take to prevent heat stroke in dogs. First of all, be aware that you don’t expose your dog to hot and humid conditions. Limit outdoor activities to the early morning and late evening, when temperatures are lower. On really hot days, keep your furry friend indoors as much as possible. When you bring your dog outside, provide plenty of shade and fresh water. Use several bowls in different places that there is always enough water. Add ice cubes to the water bowl to keep water cooler longer. Let your pet play in a cool water bath or a small pool, if you have something like that. Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature. Make sure that shade is available the whole day, also when the sun changes. If you travel with your dog in the car, make sure that your pup is well ventilated by placing it in a wired cage or in an open basket. Never leave your dog in a car with the windows closed, even for “just a minute” or even if the car is parked in the shade. The temperature inside a parked car can quickly get extremely high.