Preventing Canine Heat Stroke

Posted on July 26th, 2012

Keeping canines cool in the ruff dog days of summer! – Catherine O’Donnell, CPDT-KA

The fun of summertime also brings along threatening temperatures for your canine companion. This is a timely reminder about understanding heatstroke, how to prevent it and what signs to look out for.
Heat stroke can be fatal as dogs suffer from the heat much more rapidly than humans do. Dogs do not ‘perspire’ the same way as we do, they are limited to exhaling heat from their mouths (panting) and perspiration through their paws. Additionally certain breeds are much more susceptible to the heat than others, such as those with thick, double-coats and Brachiocephalic dogs (dogs with pushed back faces, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers). Brachiocephalic dogs have smaller airways, and have less of an ability to blow out hot air and circulate sufficient air for cooling. Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating because the extra layers of fat actually act as a type of insulation, which traps heat in their bodies and restricts their breathing capabilities.
Age can also be a factor in your dogs’ tendency to overheat. Puppies don’t have a fully developed temperature regulating systems and older dogs organs may not be functioning at 100%, which leaves them prone to heat-related damage.

Heatstroke Precautions
Don’t Leave Your Dog In The Car;
Even if it’s only for 10 minutes! Aside from being against the law in many states, just a few moments in the heat turns a vehicle into an oven. On a mild 70-degree day, a closed car can heat up to over 120+ degrees in a matter of minutes. Cracking the windows or parking in the shade may not significantly reduce the car’s temperature, especially on extremely hot days.
Truck beds are virtual hot beds for your dogs paws. Aside from the dangers of transporting your dog in a truck bed, your dogs paws can burn from the heat of the liners or beds.

Change Your Exercise Routine:
For some dogs even a casual walk can lead to heat stroke, especially if your dog is older or out of shape. Early mornings or late evenings are coolest and the optimal time for your exercise.

Grooming: & Sunscreens:
Keep your dogs well groomed by removing dead undercoat hair, but don’t rely on a complete shave down in order to help your dog tolerate the summer heat and sun. A “summer cut” may look like a relief to us humans, but shaving your dog down actually inhibits some of their ability to deal with temperature change.
Dogs with light-colored fur and pale skin are definitely at a much higher risk. Even if your dog has dark fur, his tummy area, nose and tops of ears are susceptible to sunburn. I recommend using either a sunscreen designed specifically for dogs or an all-natural sunscreen. Keep in mind that dogs often lick themselves and that human sunscreens often contain chemical additives and synthetic fragrances.

Walk On The Grass or Sidewalk Instead of the Black Asphalt:
The black asphalt of street tops get very, very hot! To avoid hurting and even burning your dog paw pads, utilize grassy areas or sidewalks to walk your dog on.

Water at the Ready!
Last but certainly not least, always have plenty of cool, fresh water available for your dog. Do not leave your dog’s water bowl in the sun because the water will heat up.

Heatstroke Symptoms and signs to watch out for:
That long tongue is your tell tale sign that your dog is HOT!
Give him cool, NOT COLD, water to drink. Ice-cold water may ‘seem’ more relieving but it may make him vomit.
It’s important to cool off your dogs chest and paws first. Similarly use cool, NOT COLD, water to cool off your dog because a dramatic change in temperature could be dangerous. Using a cool wet towel soak their chest and have them stand in cool water using a bathtub, sink or kiddy pool.

Severe Heatstroke is a medical emergency you must act quickly.
Many times your dog will cool off after only a few minutes of cooling down treatment, only to falter again with their body temperatures rising above or falling below what is normal. Thus, it is imperative to get your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Your Veterinarians treatment may include further cooling techniques, IV fluids and/or medication to prevent or reverse brain damage.

Signs of Heatstroke:
Rapid heavy panting
Petechiae (pinpoint, deep-red hemorrhages on gums/ skin)
Bright red mucous membranes on the gums and conjunctiva of the eyes
Hyperventilation (gasping for air)
Salivation (early in process, then dry gums as heat prostration sets in)
Glassy eyes
Anxious expression
Warm, dry skin
Rapid heartbeat

Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention!
Enjoy the summer with your canine companions and please stay cool out there.