The summer months can be brutal in most parts of the country. In Florida, for example, it’s not unheard of for temperatures to reach 95°F (35°C) or higher. And the humidity can add to the heat. These high temperatures can wreak havoc for humans, let alone our furry companions. Heat stroke in dogs can be a very real, and very scary, situation for pet parents.
In 2018, a Chihuahua that was left in a carrier outside in the heat for too long, died of heat stroke. Last year, another Chihuahua nearly died after being left in a car where temperatures reached 117°F (47.2°C)!
Aside from these careless mistakes, heat can be a real danger to our pets in the most innocent of situations. Knowing how to prevent heat stroke in dogs, how to spot the warning signs and what to do if your dog does succumb to heat stroke is key to being a responsible pet parent. We’ve laid out all of this information in this post.
What is Heat Stroke?
In simple terms, heat stroke refers to an elevated body temperature. According to VCA Hospitals, if a pet’s body temperature exceeds 103°F (39.4°C), it’s considered abnormal or hyperthermic. Body temperatures above 106°F (41°F) without previous signs of illness are most associated with exposure to excessive external or environmental heat and are often referred to as heat stroke.
When pet temperatures reach 107°F to 109°F (41.2°C to 42.7°C), it starts to become critical and can result in multiple organ failure and even death. This level of temperature isn’t too far away from when warning signs start, which is why it’s critical to make sure you know how to spot the early signs of heat stroke to combat it from the start.
5 Ways to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs
It’s important not to let heat stroke or heat exhaustion happen in the first place. If you know you will be outdoors with your pet for long periods of time, are traveling in warm climates or are in a situation where your dog will be exposed to heat in anyway, take the proper precautions below.
- Make sure your dog has access to a cool, well-ventilated space. The most common cause of heat stroke or hyperthermia is leaving a dog in a car with inadequate ventilation. Outdoor pets should also always have access to shade.
- Never leave your pet in a car. This might seem like common sense, but according to Peta.org, in 2019 alone, 53 animals endured heat–related deaths and another 126 were rescued from the heat—and those are just the ones that were reported. Temperatures rise extremely quickly even on mild temperature days and can kill pets rapidly.
- Provide plenty of fresh clean drinking water at all times. When outdoors with your dog, make sure to take water for your furry friend as well. Products like this 2 in 1 Portable Dog Water Bottle + Feeder makes it easier to provide water without having to carry a bowl around as well.
- Avoid exercising dogs in hot weather. Although we advocate for regular exercise, doing so in extreme temperatures can be counterproductive. Extreme heat is draining and physically stressful for our pups. Even if the heat is not bothersome to you, keep in mind that to cool off naturally, your dog does not sweat over their whole body the way you do. Extreme temperatures are harder for them to deal with.
- Avoid hot sand, concrete, and asphalt areas. The hot summer sun can burn paw pads, which are extremely sensitive, even if the temperature outside is only 80°F (26.7°C). Always make it a habit to feel the ground – if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.
Warning Signs of Dog Heat Stroke
It’s important to spot the warning signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion so that you can take action immediately.
- Excessive panting or difficulty breathing. If your dog is panting constantly or faster than normal (hyperventilation), they could be overheated.
- Signs of dehydration include dry nose, visible tiredness, excessive panting, and sunken eyes. Bright red, gray, purple, or bluish gums can also be an indication. Lack of urine could also mean they are dehydrated or overheated.
- Excessive drooling. Keep an eye out for lots of drool, or drool that is thicker and stickier than usual.
- If your dog’s nose is dry and hot instead of wet and cool, they could have a fever.
- Rapid pulse. The easiest way to take your dog’s pulse is to place your hand on their chest near their front elbow joint. Keep in mind that small dogs and puppies have very quick pulses.
- Muscle tremors. If your dog is shivering or shaking regardless of outside temperature, it may be caused by heat exhaustion.
- Lethargy or weakness. Overheating can cause dogs to nap more than normal or having trouble standing up or walking.
- Vomiting or diarrhea. Abnormally soft stool, or stool with blood in it, is a big warning sign for heat exhaustion.
If your pup is displaying any of these signs and you suspect that it may be due to heat stroke, it is an immediate medical emergency. Safe, controlled reduction of body temperature is a priority. Pour cool water (not cold) over the head, stomach, armpits and feet, or apply cool cloths to these areas. Apply rubbing alcohol to the footpads to dilate pores and increase perspiration. To be safe, call your local veterinarian or emergency vet as soon as possible to find out if further action is required.
Heat stroke in dogs is extremely preventable if you follow the proper protocol when outdoors with your pet. As your lifelong companion, you want to make sure they’re well exercised and have a great time outdoors, which is great! But you also need to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your pup to keep them safe. By following the tips we’ve provided on this post, you can rest assured that you and your pup will have a lifetime of adventures in the summer sun.
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