Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs – Three Things You Can Do

hot summer skyHeat stroke occurs when your pet’s internal temperature reaches a dangerous level, typically around 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be caused by being in a poorly ventilated area, over-exertion, and various other circumstances. Because heat stroke triggers a chemical reaction that causes the cells in your dog’s body to break down, and can cause long-term conditions such as brain damage and even death, it is incredibly important to monitor your pet for any signs. Signs of heat stroke include rapid panting, a bright red tongue, red or pale gums, weakness and dizziness, and vomiting.

Heat stroke typically begins as heat exhaustion, which is just as important to avoid, however, not as deadly as heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is generally when your dog begins to overheat. Symptoms can include vomiting, rapid panting, diarrhea, and a reddening of the skin inside your pet’s ears. If you notice that your dog is beginning to display some of these symptoms, make sure to immediately bring your dog inside, offer fresh water, and dampen their skin with lukewarm water.

Though every dog can be at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke, there are a few things that can put your furry friend at higher risk. Pets with heart disease, that are obese, older, or have breathing problems should be monitored very closely in hot weather, as even normal activities can cause them to overheat. Dogs with short snouts, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, Saint Bernards, and Shih Tzus, are also at a higher risk, since it is harder for them to pant out the heat as well as other dog breeds.

This isn’t to say that your dog shouldn’t enjoy the weather this summer! There are ways to enjoy the warm water while also avoiding heat stroke or exhaustion. Here are three ways you can help your dog maintain their safe temperature this summer:

  1. Do not let your dog stay on hot surfaces such as asphalt or cement. Not only can the heat of these surfaces burn your pup’s paw pads, but their close proximity will cause their body temperature to rise rapidly. Try to spend as little time on hard, hot surfaces as possible. Shaded, grassy paths make for a great place to walk instead!
  2. If you own a breed that can be shaved, consider giving your dog a summer haircut! Getting some of that extra fur off can really help to cut down on your dog’s overheating. However, if you own a long-haired dog, make sure not to cut the hair too short, as your dog’s skin requires protection from the sun or else it will burn. Typically, leaving one inch of fur is sufficient sun protection.
  3. Lastly, make sure to never, ever leave your dog in a parked car. This includes if you have parked in the shade, have the window cracked, or are only planning to be gone for a few minutes. A car left parked in 80 degree weather will exceed temperatures of 100 degrees after only ten minutes. After an hour, temperatures inside the car can surpass 120 degrees. Coupled with poor ventilation and a lack of fresh water, this situation can be deadly for any dog. If you are not sure whether or not your dog will be able to accompany you, it is always better to leave them home than to risk losing your furry family member.

If you believe that your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it is important to begin the steps mentioned previously- take them inside, offer them water, and wet them thoroughly with lukewarm water. Regardless of if your pet appears to be recovering, it is crucial to immediately take them to the veterinarian. Your vet will be able to treat your pet for dehydration, as well as ensure that there are no long term consequences of the heat stroke or exhaustion.

This summer is going to be a hot one, so make sure to always keep an eye on your pet. Remember, we are the most important thing to them, so it’s our duty to keep them safe!