Hot weather has arrived, and as the temperature rises, so does the danger of heatstroke. People have efficient ways to keep cool during the summer months, with air conditioners and fans, and we sweat, but dogs don’t have air conditioners that they can turn on and off, and they don’t even have the ability to sweat. They rely primarily on panting to regulate their body heat, and sometimes their natural temperature-lowering mechanisms don’t work well, especially if they have been exercising too much or been confined in a hot, stuffy environment. The result is heat exhaustion which can pose serious health problems, and if the condition progresses to heatstroke, the consequences can be fatal. A dog’s normal body temperature is 100.5 to 102. Degrees Fahrenheit.
If it rises to 105, the dog is at risk for developing heat exhaustion, and if the body temp rises to 107 degrees, he has entered the dangerous zone of heat stroke, and it can happen quickly even if it doesn’t seem to be that hot out. Dogs can be fine one minute, running and playing, and then suddenly begin panting and progressing toward heatstroke. Dogs who have a thick coat, heart and lung problems, or a short muzzle are at greater risk, as are puppies, overweight dogs, ill dogs, and dogs with short, wide heads, like pugs, bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. If your dog is overheating, he may appear sluggish and unresponsive, or possibly disoriented. Excessive panting, hyperventilation, rapid or erratic pulse, weakness, confusion, vomiting and diarrhea, indicate he is in trouble, and if he continues to overheat, breathing efforts become slowed or absent, and finally seizures or coma can occur. Call your veterinarian immediately, and move the dog to a cool environment, preferably into air conditioning. Begin cooling procedures by soaking her body with wet, cool towels. Do not use ice or ice-cold water because it can constrict blood vessels and actually worsen the condition. Get her to a veterinary clinic right away, even if she seems to be recovering.
- Dog caregivers can significantly reduce the threat of canine heatstroke by taking appropriate precautions.
- Be conscientious about keeping your dog cool, hydrated, and well ventilated, and avoiding too much exercise on hot, muggy days.
- NEVER leave your dog outside without plenty of shade and plenty of fresh water, and if you are uncomfortable in the heat, your dog is likely very uncomfortable. Do not leave him tied up outside! *Avoid walking him during the hottest time of the day when the pavement is hot and the sun’s rays are intense.
- NEVER leave your dog alone in a car, regardless of the temperature, for any reason at any time, as the temperature inside a car can reach a dangerous level in a matter of minutes. Leaving dogs in a car during warm weather is the most common cause of heat stroke. For more information, check out this video by veteranian Dr. Erin Ward who spent just 30 minutes inside a hot car to see what it felt like to be a dog: http://www.ivillage.com/never-leave-your-pet-hot-car/7-a-544003?ivNPA=1&sky=stu|ivl|hh|leavepetincar|
- If you see an animal left in someone else’s parked car, notify a store employee and call law enforcement right away.
Be aware that, as temperatures soar, so do the chances that your dog can become severely overheated, and remember that the best treatment for heatstroke is prevention!