Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs
While we all 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.
Who is at Risk?
The heat affects animals in different ways. Some pets that are at risk:
- 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.
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.
Watch your pet for excessive panting and salivation, anxiety, disorientation, weakness, fever, and rapid heartbeat. These are all signs of heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal if it's left untreated, so move your pet to an air-conditioned or shaded area. Then apply ice packs or cold towels to his head, neck and chest. Immersion in a cool (not cold) bath can also help lower his body temperature. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. He may administer IV fluids to counteract shock and fluid loss or give medication to prevent brain damage.
Outside exercise and playtime are important parts of keeping your pets healthy but use caution with summer heat.
- Keep walks to a gentle pace.
- Take advantage of cooler hours during the early morning and late evening.
- Because pets release heat through their feet, let them walk on the grass and avoid hot sidewalks or pavement.
- 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.
- 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.)
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.
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.