Is Your Dog Too Hot?
It’s summer, yay! Summer is so much fun, all the walks and hikes, visits to lakes and rivers, gardening, lots of outdoor activities. But summer is also HOT! Are there precautions that you should take for your furry friend? Let’s take a look at heatstroke: what it is, what to do if you think your dog has it, and how to prevent it. We will also look at hot weather car safety and how to protect your pet.
What Is Heatstroke?
Basically, heatstroke is a severely elevated body temperature. Bodies work hard to stay within a certain body temperature range. So, when the body gets too hot or cold it works super hard to get back to where it should be. This puts a major stress on the organs and body systems. Not only because the body is trying to regulate the temperature, but also because the body is in distress due to the temperature change.
Symptoms Of Heatstroke:
It is important to take immediate action if you see your dog displaying any combination of the following symptoms:
- Excessive panting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Warm to the touch
- Dry nose
- Red gums and tongue or pale gums or dry gums
- Not very responsive
- Blood in mouth
Permanent brain and organ damage can result when body temperature reaches 106F. If left untreated heatstroke can result in death. So, do not ignore it if your dog is getting too hot. Take action!
What To Do If Your Dog Is Too Hot:
If you notice your dog displaying symptoms of heatstroke, stop all exercise and play. Take your dog to a shady spot with good airflow. If there is an air-conditioned indoor area available that is even better! Keep the dog walking slowly if possible. This will help the body circulate cooler blood as the body cools.
Soak your dog in lukewarm-cool running water, but not cold. This water will evaporate which will be similar to sweating for humans. Applying more water to the paws, stomach, inner thigh, and ear area can especially help to reduce the temperature. Be careful not to get water in the ear, of course.
If your dog wants to lay down, letting him lay on a wet towel will enhance the cooling. But never cover the dog in a wet towel or blanket. This can cause a sauna-like effect under the towel.
You can place the dog in front of a fan to help dry him. This will also help to cool him.
Offer your dog small amounts of cool or lukewarm water. This will help to rehydrate him. Don’t let him gulp the water. If he gulps it, that could result in vomiting or bloat.
Once the dog begins to cool you can stop your cooling efforts. If the dog’s body temperature returns to normal too quickly his body temperature pendulum may swing too far the other way and result in hypothermia. So, once cooling starts it is a good idea to proceed more slowly after that.
If the symptoms do not improve quickly you should take your pup to the vet. If you can take your dog’s temperature and it is at or above 103F take your dog to the vet. Even if your dog seems to have recovered well it is a good idea to take your dog to the vet. Symptoms of heatstroke can last 48-72 hours after the body is cooled, even if your pup is acting normally.
Do not place your dog in ice water, this can actually be counterproductive. Causing the internal body temperature to continue rising while shutting off the body's cooling systems. Actually, it’s best not to submerge your dog in water at all if you suspect he has heatstroke. Also, do not offer your dog very cold water or ice to drink/eat.
Ways To Prevent Heatstroke:
Here are a few things that you can do to help your dog avoid heatstroke.
- Avoid walking in the heat of the day, instead, walk in the early morning or later in the day, if it’s cooler.
- Don’t leave the dog alone in the car. Temperatures in cars can skyrocket even on a mild day.
- Don’t leave your dog outside alone for extended periods of time unless he has access to plenty of water and shade.
- Always have plenty of cool water available inside, outside, on outings, and for walks.
- If you know that your dog heats up quickly try soaking your dog with water before you go for a walk.
- If it’s a super hot day opt for taking your dog on a walk near a safe creek, stream, lake, or river. Then your dog can cool himself in the water as needed.
- Cooling pads in your home and outside in shade can be helpful for your dog. Some are filled with a gel that is always cooler than room temperature. There are others that you store in the freezer and get out when you need them. Be sure to wrap these in a towel.
- Frozen cooling pads work great for the car. They are especially nice if you drive your dog for a walk at the park, just put the frozen pad in a cooler to keep it cold while you walk. Then after the walk you can put the pad under a towel and your dog can lay on it to cool himself. Though this might cool him too quickly if he already has heatstroke.
- There are also cooling jacket/vest that may be helpful for your pup
- Coconut water is an excellent natural source of electrolytes. If your dog is out playing hard in the heat or on an intense hike, offering him a small amount of coconut water can help him stay hydrated.
- If you are about to walk your dog on asphalt place your hand on it first. If the asphalt is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your dog to walk on. Walk on grass as much as possible as it is usually cooler.
- Keep your house cool even if you aren’t there but your dog is.
- Brushing your dog regularly in the summer can help to remove dead hair which promotes more airflow closer to the skin.
- When you feed your dog in summer choose cooling foods such as duck, rabbit, whitefish. These foods can help your dog cool more efficiently.
- One of my favorite tips: walk slower in the shade. The shade is literally degrees cooler than being in the hot sun. So, take advantage of it and walk slower in the shade.
What Dogs Are At Higher Risk?
Any dog can suffer the effects of heatstroke. However, there are some breeds that can suffer the effects sooner. Any breed with a shorter nose could have more issues with heat. This includes breeds like pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, and more.
Also, breeds that are meant for cold weather are more likely to have issues. This includes breeds like huskies and malamutes. Well, any long-haired, thick-coated, or dark-colored breed may be more affected.
Puppies and senior dogs are also more likely to get heatstroke. So, be sure to protect them and take proper precautions.
Dogs that are overweight are also at an increased risk for heatstroke.
The character of the dog also makes a difference in how quickly he might succumb to heatstroke. If your dog already seeks out the air conditioning vents and tile floors he will likely suffer from heatstroke before a dog that likes to cuddle under a blanket year-round.
Is It Okay To Leave Your Dog In The Car?
Did you know that in some areas leaving your dog alone in a parked car is illegal? This is because pets have died in cars due to the heat. Indeed, even a mild 75F day can result in a car that is 100F or higher and that’s with the windows cracked.
Before even considering leaving your dog in the car take a look at the weather. How hot is it? Is there a breeze? How humid is it? Will there be shade you can park in? How long will you be away? If it’s hot, humid, and there is no breeze or your errand will take longer than a few minutes, do not leave your dog in the car without the A/C on!
If you leave your dog in the car, park in the shade, have the windows open, leave him with water, have a cooling pad, and don’t be gone long. If you can leave the air conditioning on even better! It can be helpful to have a vinyl sticker on a window to let other people know the precautions you have taken to protect your dog in the car. This will help to deter people from trying to “save” your pet.
What If You See A Dog In A Car?
If it’s a warm day and you see a dog, alone in a parked car assess the situation. Do your best to assess the situation from a distance. If you get closer, it could excite the dog and cause him to get hotter, faster.
Ask yourself, does the dog look distressed? Is the dog moving? Is he panting heavily or showing any other signs of heatstroke? If the dog does not seem to be in distress then wait. You have no way of knowing how long a time the pet has been in the car. If the owner doesn’t return within 30-minutes or the dog begins to show signs of heatstroke, that is when you should act.
If the dog seems to be in mild distress take down the make, model, and license plate of the car. If there are any businesses close by, go in and ask them to make an announcement to find the owner of the car. Most owners will go quickly to the aid of their pet once they are aware of the situation.
If the owner cannot be found, call a non-emergency police or animal control number. If you believe the pet is in desperate need of help, there are several states in which you can help the animal without legal ramifications. Be sure to know if breaking a pet out of a car is legal or not before you do.
Also, remember that not all dogs will like you breaking into their car and may attempt to protect the car from you. Another thing to consider is, what will you do with the dog once you free him? Do you have a leash to use, how will you cool him? It is best to leave it to the professionals.
Summer can be a fun time of year for you and your furry friend. But be sure to keep them cool and keep an eye out for any signs of heatstroke. Take action immediately if you notice that your dog is too hot and get him to the vet if you expect heatstroke. Taking a few precautions can help you and your pup have lots of fun summer adventures together.