Summer Safety – Recognizing Dog Heatstroke

Dog Heatstroke

As the temperatures get hotter, dog heatstroke becomes more of a danger for our pets. Knowing the signs can be lifesaving for your dog, and will help you prepare for a safe summer with your dog. 

Some breeds are more prone to dog heatstroke as well because of a number of factors, mainly dealing with their ability to cool themselves. This makes summer safety that much more important!

Dog heatstroke isn’t on anyone’s summer plans so let’s talk about the signs and how you can keep your dog safe in the heat.

Why Cooling is so Important

Dogs have exactly 2 ways to cool their bodies. The first is panting, and the second is paw sweat. They don’t have other ways of getting rid of heat, and if it gets paired with dehydration it can cause severe medical issues(like brain damage) and even death. How effective panting is depends on the dog’s snout/muzzle. 

Dogs with flat faces, or brachycephalic dogs, are more sensitive to heat for a variety of reasons due to their face structure. If you own a boxer, pug, bull dog, or even slightly flatter faced dog like some pit bulls or pit mixes, be aware of the difficulties these dogs can have when it comes to heat. 

What About Fur?

Fur is insulating. This means that it protects from both cold AND heat, just like the insulation your home has. Shaving a dog’s coat down might seem like it would help, but it does the exact opposite. The heat protection is gone and now your dog is at the mercy of the weather, potentially getting sunburn to boot. 

Your dog’s coat will be thinner in the hotter months, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Dogs do shed throughout the year and the change in their coats isn’t always immediately obvious!

Keep a good brushing schedule to make sure you’re removing any loose fur; this promotes better airflow through the coat and makes sure it’s doing its job without sacrificing those insulating properties. 

Summer Safety - Recognizing Dog Heatstroke 1

Additional Contributing Factors to Dog Heatstroke

The weather plays a part here, obviously, with more humid weather being more dangerous. Dogs will respond to heat like many of us do, so if you’re uncomfortable your dog likely is too. 

Weight contributes to heatstroke as well. If your dog has extra pounds they’re at a greater risk! Check your dog’s body condition score against this chart to make sure your dog is at a good weight

If the area that your dog is in is not ventilated properly, like a car, the risk of heatstroke goes up dramatically. Dogs must pant to help get rid of body heat, and if that is taken away there is no where for the heat to go. 

Exercise in the heat, especially very strenuous activity like running around at the dog park, is dangerous to do in the heat. Imagine if you’re running full out in the same heat! Dogs often don’t know when to quit, or they don’t really realize that something is wrong until it’s going wrong. Do not rely on your dog to know when to stop. Do not rely on them to tell you when is enough. If possible, avoid activities that require hard exercise like running, Here are some alternative activities you can do! 

Shade and water access are very important! If your dog is outside, make sure they always have access to cool water and are free to drink when they are thirsty. Water bowls and buckets will easily heat up in the sun, so try to keep them in a shaded area. Dogs should also not be without shade to rest in. Remember, their bodies don’t regular temperature like we do and they don’t have the benefit of being able to really sweat!

Dog Heatstroke Symptoms

Dog heatstroke is scary and if you don’t know it can happen, or don’t know how to recognize it, it can be even more of a nightmare. The symptoms of dog heatstroke can happen very suddenly and will take down even the healthiest of dogs. It is no joke and can be life threatening. 

  • Excessive panting
  • Hypersalivation (drooling)
  • Warm to touch
  • Red mucous membranes of mouth
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dry nose
  • Quiet or poorly responsive, may lay down and refuse or be unable to rise
  • Vomiting
  • Blood from mouth or in stool
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Ataxia (staggering)
  • Coma
  • Death

What To Do for Dog Heatstroke

  1. Get your dog out of the heat IMMEDIATELY. Take them into the shade, a shop, where ever you can. Carry them if necessary. Get out of the heat. Someplace out of the sun, cooler, and hopefully with good air circulation like a fan. 
  2. Call your vet. You may be needing to bring your dog in and you will want them to be prepped before you get there. Plus they can give you help over the phone. 
  3. Cool down the dog! Use cool water, not cold water. This can be done with wet towels, putting water on their chest, and underbelly, and fanning them. Try to make sure the dog is wet to their skin if they have a thick coat. What this does is cool the dog like sweating does for us, so making sure there is skin contact helps this process. 
  4. Go to the vet. Dog heatstroke is serious and although we can take emergency measures to help our dogs survive the situation, getting them through the entire process unscathed is something best left up to the professionals. 

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