Heatstroke: Warning Signs and Prevention

Good judgment can go a long way in preventing your dog from having a heat stroke. Between the hours of 10 am – 4 pm during the summer months, it is way too hot to have your dog on the beach, out for a run, going wild at the dog park, or out for a long walk. High-intensity exercise is not wise in this hot and humid climate during the summer.

The normal body temperature range for a dog is around 101 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the dog’s body temperature reaches between 103-106 they are moderately overheating, with severe overheating occurring when the dog’s body temperature reaches above 106. Heatstroke can kill a dog in 15 minutes.

Certain factors like age, breed, and overall health put some dogs at higher risk of heatstroke. Senior dogs, brachycephalic breeds (boxers, Boston terriers, bulldogs, pugs, etc.), overweight dogs, thick furred dogs, and dogs with other medical conditions are more prone to heatstroke.

Prevention is key. When it is hot out, restrict outdoor exercise to mornings and evenings, NEVER leave a dog in a car, always have water available and provide plenty of shade if it is an outdoor dog.

Use shaded areas to your advantage if you do go for a short walk. Don’t walk your dog on hot pavement or sand – if the pavement or sand is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it is too hot for your dog’s paws.

During the day, opt for indoor activities such as training sessions, indoor fetch, or whatever will give your dog some physical and mental exercise out of the heat.

There are some great products ranging from portable water dishes, cooling bandanas, fans, and cooling mats. Consider if any of these items would be useful in your life with your dog.

Some physical signs of overheating and heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tacky gums, bright red or dark gums/tongue, glazed eyes, dry nose, and little to no urination. Other signs that a dog is overheating and could be suffering a heat stroke include physical weakness, unable or unwilling to move around, lack of mental clarity, loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, muscle tremors, increased pulse and heartbeat and collapsing.

If your dog does suffer a heat stroke they could have swelling of the brain, bleeding of the intestines, kidney failure, and other health issues you can’t outwardly see. Heatstroke is serious stuff. It is imperative that you get your dog veterinary care.

If you suspect your dog is in trouble, don’t wait it out and see what happens.

1.      get the dog to a cooler place immediately, ideally in front of a fan. CALL A VETERINARIAN for instructions and let them know you are on the way with a dog that could be having a heat stroke

2.      offer small amounts of water to drink

3.      place towels with doused cool water on the neck, armpits, and between the back legs (DO NOT USE COLD WATER, SUBMERGE THE DOG IN COLD WATER, OR GIVE THE DOG ICE– this can cause the dog to go into shock)

4.      wet the dog’s ear flaps and paw pads

5.      if your dog will not drink the water you provide, don’t force the dog to drink. Instead, you may wet the dog’s tongue with water.

It’s only a few months that you may need to tweak your routine with your dog. If that means keeping them safe and healthy, it should be a no-brainer!

©Kate Godfrey, 2019