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How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
July 28, 2023
Is my dog overheated? How easy is it for a dog to get heat stroke? While many of us welcome summer warmth, it’s important to know that one of the biggest risks your dog will face during the summer is the heat. Pets release heat through the pads of their feet and by panting, not sweating. This means animals are much less efficient at regulating heat and body temperature than humans, so you must take extra measures to prevent heat stroke.
What Dogs Are Most At Risk for Heat Stroke?
The heat affects animals in different ways and all animals including dogs can suffer from heat stroke. Some pets that are at a more elevated risk for overheating are:
- Elderly, very young, or sick animals have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. Therefore, they have difficulty staying cool.
- Brachycephalic pets (“pushed-in” nose) and heavy-faced dogs can’t pant effectively in the heat.
- Double coated and heavy-skinned dogs (Shar-Pei).
- Overweight dogs have extra layers of insulation that trap heat and restrict their panting.
At What Temperature Do Dogs Get Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke happens when the animal’s internal cooling system can no longer compensate for environmental temperature. A pet’s normal temperature is 100.5-102.5º F and heat stroke can cause temperatures to rise rapidly up to 104-110º F in as little as 15 minutes causing brain damage or death.
Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs
Dog heat stroke symptoms include excessive panting and salivation, anxiety, disorientation, weakness, fever, and rapid heartbeat. These are all signs of heat stroke in dogs. Heat stroke can be fatal if it’s left untreated, so if you have a dog overheating, move your pet to an air-conditioned or shaded area. Then apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck and inside the back legs in the groin region. Immersion in a cool (not cold) bath can also help lower his body temperature. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet may administer IV fluids to counteract shock and fluid loss or give medication to prevent brain damage.
How to Avoid Heat Stroke in Dogs
Outside exercise and playtime are important parts of keeping your pets healthy but use caution with summer heat. Follow these tips to keep a dog from overheating:
- Keep walks to a gentle pace.
- Take advantage of cooler hours during the early morning and late evening. Watch the local weather reports for heat index and high humidity.
- Because pets release heat through their feet, let them walk on the grass and avoid hot sidewalks or pavement. Asphalt can cause burns to their feet with very short exposure.
- Most importantly, make sure they always have access to plenty of clean, cool water.
- If your dog is outside, make sure they have adequate shade from the sun and heat.
- Water misters can lower ambient temperatures as much as 10° F to provide cooling relief to pets.
- Use large fans to cool the air and keep it circulating.
- Brushing as well as clipping long-haired or heavy-coated pets during hot summer months will help keep them cooler.
- Get them up off the ground and provide airflow using cots or decking.
- Consider the use of pet sun screens, particularly on white coated dogs and cats to prevent sunburn and secondary squamous cell cancer of the skin.
Never leave your dog inside a vehicle, even if it’s “just for a minute.” (On a mild 90º F day, vehicle temperatures can reach 120º F in 10 minutes.) If you put the dog in the car and then realize you have to run back in your house to grab something you forgot, drape your dog’s leash around your neck and shoulders so you don’t get distracted and lose track of time – that reminder will keep you on track.
Summer is a time for outdoor activities and enjoying the sunshine. With the right precautions, your pets will enjoy the weather as much as you do.
Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.