Is Your Dog At Risk Of Getting Heat Stroke?
Everything You Need To Know
When Spring and Summer arrive, we look forward to heading outdoors with our furry companions to enjoy hiking, swimming, picnics, family vacations, and more. To keep dogs happy, healthy, and cool, pet parents should be aware of the potential risks warmer weather can bring. With proper knowledge of precautions, prevention, and treatment, pet parents can safely enjoy the warm seasons with their fur babies.
Heat Health Risks
Animals’ bodies work differently than ours, so even if it doesn’t feel hot to us pets can still be at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As the temperature climbs, pet parents must be extra diligent about keeping their dogs safe and cool.
Before heading out to enjoy time in the sun, refer to our Summer Heat Risks infographic above to help determine the potential risk of outdoor situations for your dog. Of course, you know your dog better than anyone, so use common sense and your best judgment to avoid possibly dangerous situations.
Although we typically associate heat stroke with dogs who are left in vehicles, it can be experienced in any situation which leaves them vulnerable to overheating. Without an abundance of sweat glands to help regulate body temperature, dogs are more prone to heat stroke than humans. Whether playing in the backyard, going for a long walk, or enjoying a family vacation, it is important to closely monitor your dog’s behavior and symptoms to ensure they are cool and comfortable.
Also known as hyperthermia, heat stroke begins in both dogs when their temperature reaches 104°F and higher. While a dogs age, breed, weight, and medical history all play a part in their susceptibility to heat stroke, all dogs are at risk in warm, humid environments. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Extreme panting and/or drooling
Bright red gums, tongue, ears, and skin
Thick, sticky saliva
Vomiting and/or diarrhea with or without blood
Unresponsiveness and/or lethargy
Rapid/irregular heart and respiratory rate
Loss of consciousness
Heat Stroke Prevention
Luckily there are many preventative measures that pet parents can take during Spring and Summer to help keep their dogs safe. NEVER leave a dog in a parked vehicle. Try to limit outdoor play to cooler parts of the day (early morning and late evening) and beware of over exercising dogs on hot or humid days. Ensure dogs always have unlimited access to shade and fresh water. Access to A/C or fans is preferable whenever possible. If your dog loves the water, a little playtime with the garden hose or time swimming never hurts!
Heat Stroke First Aid
At the first sight of symptoms, get the dog out of the heat and into a cool, well-ventilated area. Using a rectal thermometer, take the dog’s temperature. Heat stroke begins at 104°F with potentially fatal damage beginning at 106°F. If the dog is overheated, pet parents should immediately begin cooling their pet off.
Lay the dog on a cool surface and, if possible, point a fan directly towards them. Apply towels soaked in water to their head, neck, belly, and feet or use a hose or bucket to gently apply the water. Regardless of which method is used, be sure the water is cool or tepid – not cold or ice-cold. NEVER submerge the dog completely in water, as this quick shift in temperature that can cause the animal to go into shock.
The goal is to assist your dog’s natural cooling system in a quick and efficient – but not extreme – way. Offer them small, frequent drinks of water, but do not force them to drink. Continue taking the temperature every 30-60 seconds, as it is very important to stop the cooling process once body temperature has reached 103°F. Once their temperature has reached normal levels, take your pet to the vet for additional treatment and monitoring.
Of course, always use your best judgment when it comes to emergency situations. If you don’t have access to the items needed to treat your pet or if they are already showing extreme signs of heat stroke (106°F or higher temperature, vomiting/diarrhea with bleeding, collapsing, unresponsive) travel immediately to the nearest emergency veterinary office, doing your best to keep the pet cool on the way.
Warm Weather Precautions
Heat stroke is not the only concern pet parents should have during Spring and Summer. To help keep dogs safe and comfortable, keep the following warm weather safety tips in mind:
Always closely monitor dogs while swimming.
Ask your vet if your dog would benefit from a Summer haircut, but NEVER shave your dog, as their multi-layered coats help protect them from sunburn and heat stroke.
Ask your vet if your dog would benefit from animal-approved sunscreen or insect repellent.
Keep hazardous foods and materials that are more common during warmer weather away from dogs.
Keep pets safe and indoors during Fourth of July celebrations. If your pet has firework anxiety, do not leave them alone.
If traveling with your pet, discuss your pet’s needs and create a plan of action with your vet.
We would never walk barefoot on searing hot surfaces, so why would we expect our dogs to do so? Pet parents may be surprised to know that surfaces of all types – concrete, sand, asphalt, wood, and metal – can cause painful burns to dog paws, even on days that only moderately warm. For instance, asphalt temperature can exceed 140°F if the weather is 87°F. A good way to test the temperature of a surface is to place the back of your hand on it for 7 seconds. If it’s too hot for you to handle, it is too hot for your pet.
To avoid paw burns, walk your dog early in the day or late in the evening and keep their mid-day potty breaks limited to grassy or shaded areas. If you must walk during the hottest part of the day, utilize paw protection such as booties.
Pet parents should be on heightened awareness during warm weather months for parasites that thrive in higher temperatures. Check your pets regularly for fleas and ticks after outdoor activity and continue using your year-round flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. If pets are not on year-round heartworm prevention, they should be tested for heartworm in Spring or early Summer.
Pets & Cars
Before hopping in the car to travel to fun, seasonal events or embark on family vacations, pet parents should be aware that vehicles can be dangerous places for pets if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
When traveling in the car with your pets, always restrain them using a safety harness. Be sure they have access to water and monitor their behavior closely for signs of heatstroke. On long car rides, plan regular stops for potty breaks and walks to help reduce stress. If your pet has car anxiety discuss with your vet if there are supplements or medications that they might benefit from while traveling.
The golden rule regarding pets and cars is to NEVER leave pets unattended in parked vehicles. Even on days that are simply warm, temperatures can rise inside a car by nearly 20°F in just 10 minutes – even with windows cracked or air conditioning on. Serious illness, irreversible damage, and even death can result from a pet being left in a vehicle, so always make sure car trips with pets are planned accordingly to avoid leaving them alone.
Educated Pet Sitters
Spring and Summer months are a popular time for traveling. If you’re not bringing your pets with you on your family vacation, priceless peace of mind can be found by leaving your pets in the hands of trained, knowledgeable professionals who know how to provide top-of-the-line pet care.
In addition to being avid pet lovers, the Pet Gal’s sitters are trained in pet first aid and behavior. Whether simply providing daily dog walks while you’re at work or pet sitting services while you’re on a long vacation, our Pet Gals know the best practices for safe outdoor activity on hot days and are trained on the prevention and treatment of heat stroke and other warm weather-related incidents.article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.