Heatstroke in Dogs

simon heatstroke

It has certainly been hot the past few weeks! Since we have had a few days with a heat advisory, we wanted to be sure to discuss ways to protect your pet from the dangerous effects of heatstroke!

Dogs have a normal body temperature that is hotter than ours. “Normal” is between 100oF and 102.5oF. Anything hotter than that would be considered hyperthermia, which can be caused by a fever (the body warming in response to illness), or due to excessive heat. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat (except a small amount on their paws), and they can’t take their coats off when they get hot either! Dogs rely primarily on panting to keep cool, dropping their temperature through evaporation of the water on their tongues.

Because of these factors, some dogs are more prone to overheating than others. These include brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as the pug and bulldog, as well as long coated dogs and those carrying extra pounds. Although it might seem like a good idea to shave your thick coated dog (malamutes and huskies), this can actually cause more problems, as the longer coat serves to help protect the skin from sunburn and other irritants. Protection for these high risk dogs involves being aware of the ambient temperature and limiting outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

Warning signs that your dog is experiencing heat stroke include distress, excessive panting, bright red or blue gums, and weakness. If you notice any of these signs, the best thing you can do is get your dog to the veterinarian immediately, as heatstroke can be life threatening. En route, you can begin cooling your dog with fans and cool (not cold) water. Do not try to force them to drink water as this can cause aspiration.

Heat stroke can be deadly and it can happen fast. Even on a cool 70oF day (that we won’t see for a while), the temperature in your car can rise over 40o in one hour. Exercise during the hottest parts of the day can also increase the risk. Try to schedule your daily walks at dusk or dawn and keep an eye on your furry friends. If you have any questions about protecting your pets from the summer sun, give us a call at 256-881-2482.