Does my dog have heatstroke? How to prevent my dog from getting heatstroke

Heatstroke in dogs: Does my dog have heatstroke? How to prevent my dog from getting heatstroke
Does my dog have heatstroke? How to prevent my dog from getting heatstroke
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Summer is my favourite season! I could spend all day outside under the hot sun. Unfortunately, for my dog, that same summer sun I love can be very dangerous for her. Hazel is a Saint Bernese, and mountain dogs are not made for hot weather. Most dogs need restricted lengths of time in the sun because dogs, like people, can suffer from heatstroke and heat exhaustion. 

The difference is that a dog can't tell you how she's feeling the same way a person can. You have to know the signs of heatstroke in your dog. You should also know what to do if your dog has heat exhaustion, and how to prevent heatstroke in your dog in the first place. Cats can get heatstroke too, however, it's far less common, but I've included a graphic for cat owners to share.

How do I know if my dog has heatstroke?

How do I know if my dog has heatstroke?

Did your dog spend a long day in the heat? Do you think your dog has heatstroke? It's important to know what to look for if you're spending a lot of time outside in the summer. Signs of heatstroke in your dog include:

  • Drooling, hyper salivating 
  • Bright red tongue
  • Pale gums or very red gums
  • Panting- panting increases as heatstroke progresses
  • Respiratory distress
  • Restlessness 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

Heatstroke in dogs: Sunstroke, hot cars and other heat hazards for your dog

What do I do if my dog has heatstroke?

If you think your dog has heatstroke please contact your veterinarian. If your animal hospital is closed, call the closest emergency vet clinic. For the safety of your dog, follow the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. When a dog has heatstroke, veterinarians take a very deliberate approach to controlled cooling. Do not give your dog a cold water bath or an ice bath. Do not use ice packs. Do not feed your dog ice cubes. Do not use very cold water. Your dog is likely dehydrated, so provide small helpings of cool (not cold) water.

Dr. Ernest Ward, DVM, has recommendations on the treatment of heatstroke "Safe, controlled reduction of body temperature is a priority. Cool water (not cold) may be poured over the head, stomach, armpits, and feet, or cool cloths may be applied to these areas. Rubbing alcohol may be applied to the footpads to dilate pores and increase perspiration. Ice may be placed around the mouth and anus. Intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy are also commonly used to treat heatstroke."

How do I prevent my dog from getting heatstroke?

If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors with your dog during the summer, make sure you take precautions to help regulate your dog's body temperature. If you are able to take your dog's temperature that's great! According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a normal temperature for most dogs is 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). During the summer a dog should have:

  • Availability of a cool, shady area and encouragement to go there. Lay a blanket or dog bed in the shady area and show your dog that it's there 
  • Access to fresh drinking water at all times
  • Ability to go inside whenever the dog wants 
  • Place a fan near your dog's bed or favourite spot
  • Access to a place to swim or wade in the water
  • Reduce your pet's activity- keep your dog calm by putting her on a tie-out
  • If it's too hot for you, it's way too hot for your dog, so don't go outside
  • Go for walks early in the morning or later in the evening
  • Keep close watch over your dog- monitor for signs of heatstroke

Heatstroke in dogs: Vehicle temperature chart for dogs in hot cars

Why you should never leave your dog in a hot car

Most dog owners are aware of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. A parked car can get hot really quickly, and even with the windows rolled down it can be dangerous. Dr. Ward's video 'How Hot Does it Get in a Parked Car' went viral when it was released. In the video, Dr. Ward finds out how hot it gets for your dog in a parked car first-hand, by locking himself in one. 

The sad truth is that dogs die in hot cars. Never leave your dog unattended in a car. A dog's natural cooling process is to pant, but if the air is too hot, it makes it impossible for the dog to breathe properly. If you see a dog unattended in a hot car, please follow the correct protocol to report it. In Ottawa, if you want to report a dog in a hot car, and you're unable to find a nearby security guard, parking attendant, or police officer, please call your local authorities or 911. The Ottawa Humane Society has some advice to aid you in reporting a dog left in a hot parked car- click here to visit the link.  

Does my dog have heatstroke? How to prevent my dog from getting heatstroke

Products that can help keep your dog cool this summer

Summer isn't all danger and heatstroke- a lot of dogs really enjoy summer! Many dogs love swimming! You should learn how to teach your dog to swim and the basics of water safety. You can even purchase a life jacket for your dog! There are some other cool products to have fun in the sun with your dog. And by cool, I mean cooling! Check out these summer essentials:

Heatstroke in dogs: Sunstroke, hot cars and other heat hazards for your dog

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Does my cat have heatstroke? Signs of heat stroke in cat

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