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Dogs and Heatsroke! Know the Signs!

Updated on January 22, 2014
Know the signs of heatstroke! The sun can be deadly to your dog!
Know the signs of heatstroke! The sun can be deadly to your dog!

Ahhhh…the good old summertime! There is nothing like going for a walk with your dog on a wonderful summer day. Though many dogs handle the summer heat well, they can suffer from be careful and know the signs! Heatstroke occurs when your dog's normal body mechanisms can't keep its temperature in a safe range. Humans sweat in order to regulate their body temperature. Dogs on the other hand do not. In order for a dog to cool down, it pants! Panting allows them to exchange cooler "outside air" with the warm, humid air that is in their lungs. When the outside air is actually hotter than the air that is currently in their lungs, heatstroke can occur. Certain dogs are more prone to "over-heating" than others. Breeds that are susceptible to heatstroke include Bulldogs, Shar-Peis, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and other dogs that have "smooshed" faces or short noses.

Know the Signs of Heatstroke!

So, what are the signs of a dog suffering from heatstroke? Well, there are many…so be on the look-out if you take your dog outside on a hot day! Signs include vomiting, warm or hot skin, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, staggering, loud panting, high fever, anxious expression, collapsing and disorientation. If you believe that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, it is important to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible! If you are unable to get your dog to the vet in a short amount of time, stay calm, there are a few things you can do to assist your four-legged friend.

Always wise to have a dog health book handy!

What to Do!

  • First of all, the faster you respond to your dog the better! Move him to a shady area, out of direct sunlight.
  • Apply cool water to the pads of your dog's feet, stomach and inner thighs.
  • If possible, cool your dog down with a garden hose. DO NOT submerge him in freezing, cold water as this may cause a shock to his system.
  • If he is able, allow him to drink as much cold water as he wants. If possible, give your dog some Gatorade or Pedialyte. These drinks will help to rehydrate your friend and will cool him off from the inside out. Gatorade will help to replace much needed electrolytes that your dog may have lost due to dehydration. Not all dogs will drink Gatorade…but it is worth a shot!
  • If he is able to walk…keep him moving! It is important to keep your dog's blood flowing as he cools down!
  • DO NOT cover your dog with a wet blanket or towel. Many people think that covering your dog with a towel that has been submerged in cool water will help your pup to cool down. Actually, all this does is heat him up more! By covering your dog, you will only create a sauna like effect…and that is not what you want or what your dog needs!
  • As soon as possible, take your dog to the veterinarian. If the veterinary clinic that you frequent is closed, take him to the closest emergency vet.
  • Watch for shock! Signs of shock include the acute onset of fatigue and or weakness, lack of responsiveness, light and or fluttering heartbeat, rapid and or shallow breathing, grayish gums, and  dilated pupils. Dogs with severe heatstroke that actually go into shock are at risk of dying! If you suspect shock, take your dog the emergency vet IMMEDIATELY!

If possible, cool your dog down with the garden hose!
If possible, cool your dog down with the garden hose!

How to PREVENT Heatstroke!

So now that we have discussed the signs of heatstroke, and what to do if you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, let's discuss how to PREVENT it in the first place! After all, knowledge is power!

  • First and foremost, NEVER and when I say NEVER I mean, NEVER...leave your dog in a car on a hot summer day unattended! The temperature in a car on a hot summer day can rise to DEADLY levels within minutes! Even if you crack the windows, it is not wise to leave your dog in the car. Every year, dogs DIE because of irresponsible owners…don't fall into this category!
  • If you plan to go for a walk with your dog on a summer afternoon, bring water and a collapsible doggie water bowl. Keeping your dog hydrated will help him to maintain a cool body temperature!
  • Old and or overweight pets are at the highest risk for heatstroke. If you have a dog that falls into one or both of these categories, don't even bother taking him for a long walk in the heat. Senior and overweight dogs should be kept inside…in the air conditioning! Obviously, you will need to walk your fat senior friend at some point so play it safe and take him out for short walks during the early morning and evening hours (be sure to keep these walks short!).
  • Give your dog breaks when outside. Though your Labrador may want to play Frisbee for hours, it just isn't safe to do so when the temperatures are soaring. Allow your dog to play, however, make him take mandatory "shade and water" breaks.
  • Be smart. If it is HOT outside and YOU are uncomfortable…then most likely your dog is too. When temperatures soar REALLY high, make walks short and sweet. Though your dog may not be happy, it is the smartest thing to do (besides, YOU know best, not your dog!). Prevention is KEY and Knowledge is power!

When it is hot outside, make your dog take cool-down breaks so that he does not overheat!
When it is hot outside, make your dog take cool-down breaks so that he does not overheat!

What have we learned?

So what have we learned? Dogs are MUCH MORE susceptible to heatstroke than humans (after all, they are the ones wearing the fur coats in the summertime!). Each year, dogs DIE from heatstroke, so it is very important that you know the signs and what to do should your dog over-heat! It is important that you stay calm, yet act responsibly and quickly! Never leave your dog in a car unattended and if possible, walk your furry friend during the early morning hours or during the evening (it is cooler during these times). As I mentioned before, KNOWLEDGE is power. If you know how to prevent heatstroke in the first place, I'd say you are ahead of the game! Here's to you and your dog having a wonderful, fun and SAFE summer!


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    • Army Infantry Mom profile image

      Army Infantry Mom 8 years ago

      great hub,..When I lived in Las Vegas I worked at a Vet Hospital,..I was astonished at the number of dogs that had a heat stroke. I was even more amazed at how serious and deadly this is. I can't count how many I seen die or had to be put down due to exstesive brain damage due to a heat stroke. And the sad part is,..that it can be prevented.