Heatstroke and Your Dog

Summer can mean fun times for you and your dog but it’s important to be mindful of how the summer heat affects your dog, too. Dogs can suffer from heatstroke, just like humans. It can even be fatal. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat (or sweat just a little through their paws). They rely on panting to cool themselves. When the temps get very hot, your dog can quickly become overheated and the results can be tragic.


Signs of heatstroke in dogs

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased salivation
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea

If the heatstroke progresses, it can lead to seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, followed by death.


Heatstroke is nothing to take lightly.


Actions to take if your dog has heatstroke

If your dog has heatstroke, even before taking him to the vet you should start trying to lower his body temperature. Remove him from the heat immediately. Wet him thoroughly with cool (NOT COLD) water. If you have a small dog, use lukewarm water. Start increasing air movement around your dog with a fan. If you attempt to cool your dog too quickly you can cause life-threatening medical conditions! Go slowly.


Check your dog’s rectal temperature every five minutes. Once his body temperature is down to 103 F, you can should dry him thoroughly and cover him so he won’t keep losing any more heat. Take him to the vet right away. He will probably be dehydrated. In some cases a dog can have organ failure as a result of heatstroke. Your vet may want to give your dog IV fluids and monitor him.


If your dog is able to drink on his own, allow him to have room temperature water. However, don’t try t force him to drink anything.


Preventing heatstroke

There are some sensible things you can do to prevent your dog from having heatstroke.

  • If you have a brachycephallic dog (short-nosed) or if your dog is overweight or has any condition which could predispose him to having problems in hot weather (such as heart disease, breathing difficulties, old age, etc.), make sure you keep your dog indoors in a cooled environment during hot weather. Don’t allow him to play or overexert himself outside when it’s hot.
  • Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Do not leave your dog in a parked car in the summer, even if you park in the shade. The temperature inside can get very hot in just a short time.
  • If your dogs spend time outside, make sure they have access to shade.
  • On hot days you should restrict your dog’s exercise, especially during the hottest part of the day. If you jog or do other activities with your dog, keep your dog home on the hottest days.
  • Do not muzzle your dog on hot days. It will prevent him from getting enough air.
  • Concrete and asphalt areas, as well as the beach, reflect heat and make things hotter for your dog on hot days. Avoid these places with your dog when it’s very hot.
  • On hot days consider wetting your dog or hosing him off. Use sprinklers or provide your dog a kiddie pool to splash in.
  • Use cooling products to keep your dog cooler such as cooling pads and cool neck ties and bandanas for dogs. Use air conditioning for your dog if you have it. Freeze water in soft drink bottles or place ice in resealable food storage bags – wrap them in a towel for your pet to lie on.


If you use these tips you can keep your dog cool all summer long, no matter how hot it gets.

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