Summer? Is that you? It’s been a cold and rainy spring in the Midwest, but recent warm temperatures mean that summer is finally on its way! With heat waves and weather changes approaching, it’s important to remember how this can make outdoor adventures more hazardous for us and our pets. To begin our Summer Series, we want to share with you some information about heat stroke and how to keep your pup safe and cool this summer.
Dogs reduce their core temperature by panting, and while they can sweat small amounts of excess heat away through their paw pads, they don’t have the same functional ability to sweat like human beings do. Some dogs, like those who are brachycephalic (having a short muzzle which effects breathing), are more prone to overheating because of their physical structure. However, all dogs can suffer from heat stroke. It’s important to know what the signs of heat stroke are so that you can act quickly if you believe your dog is showing symptoms.
Some Signs of Heat Stroke Include
- Excessive panting (especially with a large, wide tongue)
- Reddened gums
- Uncoordinated movement
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Excessive drooling
- Delay in responsiveness
- Rapid heart rate
What to Do if Your Dog is Showing Signs of Heat Stroke
- If you believe your dog is experiencing heat stroke you should immediately move your dog to a cooler area; indoors with air conditioning or to a shaded spot.
- Offer your dog fresh cool, not cold*, water to hydrate them.
- Gently wet down their neck, belly, armpits and paws with cool, not cold*, water.
- Direct airflow from a fan onto your dog to dry off. The evaporating water will help reduce body temperature.
- Remember, to cool your dog off gradually. Cooling your dog too fast may induce shivering, which is a somatic motor response that produces heat, instead of dissipating it.
- Call your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss the situation or head to an emergency center with your dog.
*Water that is too cold can actually raise body temperature by constricting blood vessels so heat dissipation is less effective.
How to Avoid Heat Stroke
To avoid heat stroke, closely monitor how much exercise your dog is receiving, avoid walks and exercise during peak temperature hours, ensure they always have access to shade and fresh water when outdoors, and never leave them in a room or in a car without adequate ventilation and temperature control.
Heat stroke can be scary and dangerous, but you could save your dog’s life by knowing how to prevent it and by having an emergency plan in place should you see any signs indicating that your dog might have heat stroke.