Preventing Heatstroke in Your Dog

Can you imagine what it would feel like to wear a permanent fur jacket on a hot summer day? As the temperatures heat up outside, we need to make sure we keep our fur jacket-wearing family members cool! Hot environments can cause heatstroke easily, and severe heatstroke is a life or death situation for your pet. Prevention is the easiest way to keep them safe when the warmer weather arrives.

Did you know that certain dog breeds are actually more susceptible to heatstroke? Dogs that have thick fur or short noses (like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shi Tzu) have more difficulty cooling themselves. Dogs that love constant exercise and playtime, such as working dogs like Retrievers, Spaniels and Shepherds, should be closely monitored for possible heatstroke when the weather is warm.

Your dog being outdoors in the sun, with no access to shade, can quickly overheat them and bring on heatstroke. Excessive playtime outside when its warm—playing with people and other dogs, hiking, walking, even having fun in the sun can also quickly bring on heatstroke. You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating—NEVER, EVER leave your pet in your car on a hot day, even with the window rolled down. To give you an idea on fast your vehicle can become an oven, on a 70-degree day the temperature inside a car can reach 104 temperatures fast. The hotter it gets outside, the hotter and faster it gets inside—minutes to reach 150-175 degrees.

Did you know that dogs only have sweat glands on the pads of their feet? They also pant to exchange warm air in their bodies for cooler air—both of these body mechanisms help them cool down. Heatstroke occurs when these normal body functions are unable to cool the body down faster than its warming up Signs of heatstroke can come on quickly; Increased heart rate, excessive panting, increased salivation, a bright red tongue, and red or pale gums are some of the initial signs that your pet needs your help to get cool fast. Some pets may initially vomit water as they struggle to keep cool—another sign that your pet may be in serious trouble.

Most important thing to do if you fear your dog has heatstroke is to get them out of the sun and find a way to cool them down immediately—and of course call your vet for help. Avoid using shockingly cold water to cool them down—the water should be tepid or slightly cool. Regardless of how fast your pet may recover from heatstroke, it is very important to get them immediate veterinary attention to make sure they recovered completely. There are many unseen health problems that can occur due to heatstroke, and having a veterinarian double check—and treat—for these as quickly as possible can mean a world of difference to your dog’s health moving forward.

The best advice we can give is to prevent heatstroke in the first place. When you’re outdoors always provide easy access to water and make sure they have access to shade to keep the sun off. Dogs requiring special care and attention to make sure they are kept in the shade and relax are puppies, senior dogs, dogs that have breathing issues, and those having health conditions like heart disease or obesity. Even normal activity outside in high temperatures for these dogs can be harmful to them—so be their best friend and monitor their activity outdoors.

Here’s some more easy tips to remember to help prevent heatstroke in your pets:

  • Keep your pets inside during the hottest part of the day (10-3 PM)
  • Exercise in the morning and evening hours when its cooler—also scale back on vigorous exercise until the temperature drops
  • Avoid places where the heat is reflected and there is little shade—like the beach or concrete and asphalt areas (this also keeps sensitive pads safe from pavement burns)
  • Wet your dog down often with cool water or allow them to swim—make sure they rest a lot in the shade though and drink plenty of H2O
  • Giving them frozen items or ice packs wrapped in a towel and placed on the floor for your pet to lie on helps
  • A dog that for some reason may need to wear a muzzle outdoors—make sure it’s a basket-style muzzle (instead of nylon) since this muzzle design allows them to pant and drink water
  • Keeping your pet inside with you so they can also enjoy the air conditioning—who wouldn’t want to hang out with mom and dad?
  • A shorter summer haircut always helps 😊