Dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke than cats, and while the condition is preventable, it isn’t always easy to recognize when a pet is in danger. There are times when we take our dogs’ heat tolerance for granted, and the signs of heat stroke in dogs can vary quite a bit. So how can you let your pup enjoy summertime without keeping them shut indoors every day?
Stick with us to learn about dog heat stroke, what the warning signs look like, and how you can take the necessary precautions to protect your companion from this significant summer hazard!
Signs Your Dog Might Be Experiencing Heat Stroke
- Panting and breathing heavily
- Acting sluggish exhausted
- Having difficulty standing and walking
- Drooling excessively
- Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
- Confusion and lack of coordination
- Having difficulty urinating
Even if something seems to be just slightly off with your pet, be cautious and contact your vet for more information. While your dog may not have heat stroke, they might still need to see their vet for a checkup.
When is Dog Heat Stroke a Risk?
This might seem like an obvious question, but there is more to heat stroke in dogs than mere exposure to heat. It’s important to know what kinds of situations can put your pet more at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and how you can plan ahead to minimize that risk.
Here are a few situations that can greatly increase your dog’s chances of having heat stroke.
Keeping Your Dog in the Car While You Run Errands
It’s not an uncommon story: a pet gets left in their owner’s vehicle, and either becomes very sick or succumbs to heat stroke. While these scenarios are thankfully rare, they still do happen. In warm weather, the inside of your vehicle can heat up dramatically in just a few minutes. It does not need to be unusually hot for this to happen, either.
Walking Your Dog on Hot Pavement
Have you ever tried walking barefoot on pavement that has been baking in the sun? Your dog won’t be able to tell you their feet are burning, but hot pavement can actually injure their paw pads. What’s more, the heat rising off the pavement can cause your dog to overheat, adding to their exertion from walking in the sun.
Letting Your Dog Run and Play to Exhaustion
Sometimes there’s a such thing as too much playtime. When it’s hot and humid, your pup is going to tire out much faster, but their desire to have fun might override their exhaustion, putting them more at risk for heat stroke.
Not Keeping Your Pet Hydrated
We all want our pets to stay happy, healthy, and hydrated, but sometimes, we might forget or take the situation for granted. It’s perfectly fine to let your pet spend time outdoors on a hot day to relieve themselves and stretch their legs, but don’t forget to provide them with access to fresh water!
Not Having Proper Shade for Your Pet
Not all yards are going to have sufficient shade to give your pet shelter from the sun. If you can, set up a makeshift shelter for your dog, or make sure they are able to go to a place in your yard that does offer shade.
What You Can Do to Prevent Dog Heat Stroke
Preventing heat stroke in dogs is easy; it just takes vigilance. Here are some tips to increase their safety:
Avoid Leaving Your Pet in the Car
We always want to remind pet owners to avoid leaving their companions in their vehicle when it’s parked. Even if you know you’re only going to be leaving them for a few minutes, the inside of your car can quickly become a dangerous environment for your pet. In fact, it’s illegal to keep a pet in a car without climate control in St. Mary’s County.
If your pet absolutely must come along with you, see if you can bring along a family member or friend who can stay in the car with your pet, with the air conditioning turned on.
Limit Your Pet’s Outdoor Activity
If the heat is tiring even for you, make sure your pet doesn’t spend a lot of time running around and playing outside. Too much activity can tire them out and increase your pet’s risks for dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Keep Your Pet Cool Whenever You Can
Staying inside in the air conditioning is always a good idea for your pet, but you can also help them stay cool outdoors with a sprinkler and/or wading pool, adequate shade, and access to fresh drinking water. You can also pat them down with a towel soaked in cool water.
Walk Your Pet on the Grass Instead of the Sidewalk
This is not always easy to do, depending on where you live, but, if possible, try to walk your pet on the grass instead of the hot pavement. Other solutions include protecting your pet’s paws with booties, or walking your dog early in the day or towards sunset when it’s cooler.
When in Doubt, Talk to Your Vet
If your pet is behaving strangely or seems sick, don’t hesitate to contact our Callaway, MD, animal hospital. We are more than happy to answer your questions, suggest next steps, and alleviate your anxiety as much as possible. It’s always best to be safe.
Is My Dog More at Risk for Heat Stroke Than Others?
Every dog is, of course, different. And when it comes to being affected by heat stroke, some dogs have a greater risk than others. These at-risk breeds are what some call “flat-faced” breeds (also known as brachycephalic), and they include:
- English Bulldogs
- French Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers
- Shih Tzus
Dogs don’t sweat like humans do when they need to keep cool. Instead, they pant. The problem with flat-faced dog breeds is that they are unable to pant as efficiently, due to deformities of their nose and soft palate. Breathing is more difficult for them, and therefore they are more prone to overheating and suffering from heat stroke.
Be extra careful if your dog belongs to one of these breeds. Take extra precautions to keep them cool, healthy and happy!