It may be called the Dog Days of Summer, but that summer heat can be tough for our furry friends to beat. Pets exposed to high temperatures can become ill very quickly, so knowing the signs of heat stroke in dogs is very important.
Most people are now aware that dogs left in hot cars can be lethal, but there are other circumstances that might cause our pets to overheat even while we are with them. Overexertion and dark-colored coats are just a few of the risk factors. Here are four symptoms to watch for to help you to discern if your dog is too hot, and what you can do to help.
Signs of Hyperthermia (Heat Stress)
- Rapid panting, even at rest. Panting is one of the few ways dogs have to cool themselves, so if your pet is doing a lot of this, it is a sure sign your dog is becoming uncomfortable.
- Unwillingness to get up. As pets become weak from heat stress, they become unwilling to move around.
- Foaming at the mouth. Advanced hyperthermia is occurring if you see this symptom. It means your pet is severely dehydrated and therefore the saliva and mucous secretions are thickening.
- Rigid muscles. With the end stage of hyperthermia, the circulatory system is shutting down, causing the muscles to contract and cease to function. Permanent damage is likely occurring.
These symptoms can escalate quickly, so the best way to avoid hyperthermia is prevention!
Tips for Preventing Hyperthermia
- Never leave a dog (or child) in a car. Temperatures can reach 120-160 degrees in just 15 minutes even with the windows partially open. Even leaving the car running with the air conditioner going can fail. Several police dogs have died from heat exhaustion under those exact circumstances. It's simply best to leave dogs at home.
- Make sure your dog has shade when outdoors. Even dogs with access to shade can suffer in very hot weather. Keep in mind that that shaded areas may diminish or disappear as the sun moves throughout the day.
- Always have plenty of cool water available. Make sure your dog's water bowl is full and tip proof. Keep it in the shade and possibly add ice to it. A kiddie pool or dog swimming pool could provide water both for drinking and for cooling fun. A sprinkler could be an option as well.
- Realize your dog probably feels hotter than you. Dogs have fur, so it is like wearing a coat all the time. If it is uncomfortable for you outside, it is probably more uncomfortable for your furry friends. In addition to having a constant coat, dogs are unable to cool themselves with sweating like a human can. There is only a little cooling done through panting and through the foot pads, which is not very efficient.
- Keep activities to a minimum during the hottest parts of the day. Walks should be taken during the cooler mornings or evenings. For highly active dogs, keep exercise sessions short. A dog treadmill that can be used indoors with air conditioning is a good idea for dogs that need to run off energy yet are at risk for heat exhaustion.
- Use cooling technologies. There are modern materials that are now available for use on pets. These have been developed into a wide variety of cooling products for dogs. If your dog must work outside in the heat, these might be a great solution.
- Do protect your pup's paws. Hot pavement can blister paws and compromise one of the two cooling mechanisms a dog has. Either keep your pet on grass or use dog booties or, even better, sandals or cooling boots, for maximum ventilation and protection.
How to help a heat-stressed dog
- Move the dog out of the heat. Move a dog indoors where there is air conditioning or at least to shade.
- Do not apply ice or chilled water initially. Dramatic temperature changes can shock your dog. Apply cool (rather than cold) water once he has been in the cooler spot for a while and the rate of panting is starting to decrease. Do not give any water by mouth quite yet.
- Apply rubbing alcohol to the arm pits and foot pads. This technique will replicate rapid evaporation, which will help cool your dog quickly.
- Give water in small amounts once the cool water has been applied and/or rubbing alcohol has been put on the feet.
- Check in with your veterinarian. Even dogs that seem fine can have delayed problems from damaged organs. Clotting problems as well as others could be a risk, so it is important to visit your vet. Blistering from hot pavement may also take days to manifest, so watch for symptoms.
How do you like to keep your dog cool in the summer and still get out and have fun?
Photo courtesy of Andy M¢.