July and August are known as the “Dog Days of Summer”. Ancient Romans associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius, which they called the “Dog Star” as it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. They believed the star to be the cause of the hot sultry weather.
Regardless of the cause, the summer months require pet parents to be extra vigilant and keep their dogs from overheating! Heat stroke is life threatening, and can take your dog’s life in a matter of minutes.
It’s vitally important in the hot weather that your dogs have constant access to plenty of fresh cool drinking water. Just like us, dogs can become dehydrated very quickly in the heat and need plenty of water to help cool them.
Dogs sweat mainly through sweatpads on their feet, but heat regulation is done through panting. Because of this it is not often evident when dogs are overheated or require water. Staying cool is especially important if your dog is brachycephalic (flat faced such as a Pug, Pekinese or Boston Terrier). It is crucial to keep them in a cool environment because they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. So, the best place for these types of dogs is in your home in the coolest spot available to them.
Heat stroke occurs when the cooling mechanisms of the body cannot keep up with excessive external heat, and body temperatures of 106° F (41° C) or higher are reached.
Heat stroke left untreated can lead to multiple organ dysfunction and death.
Heat Stroke in Dogs
What are the Best Ways to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs?
When walking with your dog, always carry a water bottle.
2. Keep them Cool
Purchase a kiddie pool for your dog. Even if your dog isn’t a swimmer, often they will paddle or even lay down in a shallow few inches of water, which is a great way to keep them cool.
If a pool isn’t available or is inconvenient, a soaking wet towel placed over your dog’s body will help cool him down. The air movement over the wet towel will have a cooling effect.
There are also a number of cooling jackets on the market that cool through the use of a gel, which is situated inside the lining of the jacket. The jacket is soaked in cold water and the gel swells up to provide a cooling effect.
3. Shaded Areas
If your dog is outside during the heat of the day, it’s important that you provide him or her with a cool and shady place to rest. Even though he is in a shady spot, access to fresh water is crucial. Better yet, if your dog can enjoy the comfort of your cooler home in the heat of the day, so much the better.
When the weather is hot, save your dog’s daily walks or exercise for early mornings or evenings when it is cooler out and things like hot asphalt are not a hazard to your pet’s feet
A lesser known tip is to adjust your dog’s diet in the hot summer months. Feeding a high protein diet may increase body temperature and the need for hydration, so sometimes a lower protein option is best for the hot summer months.
Leave your dogs at home if you are going out, unless you are on your way to a pet friendly destination where you can take them out of the car. Every year, hundreds of dogs expire in vehicles where they have been left in hot temperatures. It only takes minutes for the temperature in a car parked in heat or sun to skyrocket to dangerous levels, and only takes minutes for your dog to succumb to heat stroke.
What are the signs of Heat Stroke?
- Excessive drooling
- Increased body temperature – above 103° F (39° C)
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
- Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart beats
- Stoppage of the heart and breathing
- Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress
- Changes in mental status
- Muscle tremors
- Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait or movement
- Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
How is Heat Stroke Treated?
Early recognition of the symptoms of heat stroke is important for recovery. If your dog’s increased body temperature can be linked to environmental temperature, such as weather, an enclosed room, or exercise, the first thing to do is lower the body temperature.
First of all, if you are using water to lower the body temperature, it’s very important NOT to use ice or very cold water. This can cause the blood vessels near the surface of the body to constrict and may slow down the rate of heat dissipation. Shivering is also undesirable, since it is the body’s mechanism to create heat. A gradual lowering of the body temperature is best, and the least dangerous. Offer cool, not cold, water to drink, and allow him to drink freely, but do not force your dog to drink.
External cooling techniques can include spraying the dog down with cool water or immersing his whole body in cool water. You can try wrapping him in cool, wet towels, and/or cooling your pup with a fan. You should stop cooling procedures when the body temperature reaches 103° F (using a rectal thermometer) to avoid dropping below normal body temperature. Once you have lowered the body temperature, take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.
Dogs who have experienced heat stroke are more prone to suffering it again, so be ultra sensitive to the signs of heat stroke moving forward, and be prepared to respond quickly if required.
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