Dog Heat Stroke 101: Safe Fun in the Sun

Jun 11, 2018 | Blog, Pets & Vets

Dog Heatstroke 101

That dreary, rainy spring is finally done. The sun is shining, and the sky is blue. Let’s take the dog for a run!

Sadly, many pet owners have  learned the hard way about the dangers of summer heat over the years. It can be deadly, and one of the most common results of prolonged exposure is heat stroke.  

Recognizing the Signs of Heat Stroke in your Dog

According to PetMD , the most common symptoms to watch for with heat stroke in dogs are:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Frequent breaks lying down
  • Fast/irregular heart beat
  • Lethargy, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, stumbling, seizures

How to Protect your Dog from Heat Stroke

  1. NEVER leave your dog in a car during the warm-hot months. Cracked windows and drinking water are not enough. Still think it’s OK to leave your dog in the car while you shop? A brave veterinarian tried it out, and here’s what he learned. The temperature inside a closed car is at least 10-20 degrees hotter than outside
  2. Exercise your dogs in the early morning or mid-evening. Going for a run at lunch time can be exhilarating, but it’s not recommended. And observe your dog during their time outside, cutting it short if they seem to be tiring more easily than usual
  3. During and after exercise, only allow your dog small amounts of water at a time. Drinking large amounts too quickly can lead to problems, one of which could be bloat. Don’t give them free access to food or water until they are well rested
  4. If your dogs enjoy their days in the fenced-in yard, it is vital they have lots of shade and abundant fresh water. Check on them regularly, because heat stroke can come on fast. A fun activity can be playing in a plastic kiddie pool to stay comfortable, but only while you are present
  5. If the weatherman puts out a high-heat-index warning, all pets should be kept inside. Even if they usually live outside, these days can be dangerous to them too

A group at particular risk for heat stroke are those with flat faces and snub noses, or  brachycephalic dog breeds: Pug, Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bulldog (English and French), Mastiff, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese are a few examples. Dogs with black or thick coats, like Huskies, are in the high-risk group too. But it can happen to any dog.


Tips for Dogs with Heat Stroke

  • It’s important not to cool them too quickly, as this can shock their already weakened system. Don’t plunge Bailey into an ice bath
  • Wet washcloths or towels with cool water and drape them over the dog’s torso and neck. Get more than one so you can change them out as they become warm from contact with the dog
  • Ice or freezer packs applied over wet towels can help too
  • Get Bailey into your shower or tub if you can, and wet her down with cool— not cold—water, especially along her torso and the back of her neck
  • Use a digital thermometer to check body temperature (you can do this!) rectally every 5 minutes. Remember: normal is 100-102.5° Fahrenheit. Temps above 104° are dangerous.
  • Get to the vet ASAP in an air-conditioned car. Let them know what you’ve done so far. Prolonged high body-temperature, or hyperthermia, can cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Some dogs need IV fluids to help them rehydrate, and to treat shock. Getting an exam as soon as possible is the best way to be sure the emergency is over

The Tip of the Tail

A quick note: since a dog’s normal temperature is higher than yours, holding your hand against their skin is not an accurate way to determine if they are too hot. The most accurate method is taking a rectal temperature. Keep an inexpensive digital thermometer around for this purpose, marked “DOG” with a Sharpie or label.

We share these tips so you can be aware of the risks of the season while you enjoy the summer with your pet. You have a wonderful friend by your side, so go have fun now that you know what to prevent.



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